Skip to main content

Full text of "Grey, Viscount Of Fallodon Twenty Five Years 1892-1916"

See other formats











Copyright , 1 92 5 , by 
Viscount Grey of Fallodon 

All rights reserved 

First Edition. Printed, August, 1935 
Published, September, 1925 

Second Printing (before publication), September 4, 1925 

Printed in the United States of America 

By kind permission of Mr. Frederick Hallycr, Kensington 








In 1892 Election — Mr. Gladstone’s Last 
Government — Under-Secretary to Lord Rose- 
bery — The Work of the Under-Secretary — 
Continuity of Policy — Great Britain and 
the Triple Alliance — Principles of British 
Foreign Policy — The Balance of Power. 

An Incident at Cairo — The Rough Side of 
German Friendship — French Suspicions — A 
Siamese Crisis — A Timely Apology — Trouble 
in West Africa — The “Grey Declaration” 
and Its Origin — Cabinet Objections — Great 
Britain and Japan — The Beginning of 


Training in Office — Life in London — Town 
Life and Country Life — The Fishing Cot- 
tage and Its Uses — An Early Flitting — Rest 
and Recreation — True Luxury — A Depress- 
ing Contrast — Methods of Work and Public 
Speaking — Leaving the Foreign Office — An 
Unfulfilled Intention. 


Two Tendencies of These Years — The Strain 
with France — Increasing Difficulties with 




Germany: — A New Situation in the Far East 
— The Russians at Port Arthur — Chamber- 
lain's “Long Spoon" Speech — The Fashoda 
Incident — Lieut. Marchand’s Gallantry — 
Chamberlain's Overture to Germany — A 
German Opportunity and Its Rejection — A 
Secret Agreement — The South African War 
— Continental Hostility — Beginning of the 
German Big Fleet — The Anglo- Japanese Al- 
liance — The Anglo-French Agreement — Rea- 
sons for Welcoming It — German Suspicions — 

Lord Rosebery's View — The Dogger Bank In- 
cident — The Hard Case of Russia — The 
Pleasures of Opposition — Railway Work — 

The Chairmanship of the North-Eastern 


Balfour’s Resignation — Campbell-Banner- 
man's Government — Difficulties in Joining 
It — An Interview with the Prime Minister 
— Reasons for Coming In — Back to the For- 
eign Office — The Importance of Free Trade 
— Campbell-Bannerman's Characteristics — 

The Qualities of a Good Colleague. 



The Algeciras Conference — French Appre- 
hensions — Testing the Anglo-French Agree- 
ment — A Question for the New Government 
— The Impossibility of Answering It — Inter- 
views with M. Cambon — Military Conversa- 
tions and Their Limitations — An Interview 
with Metternich — Campbell-Bannerman's 
View— Ought There to Have Been a Cabi- 
net? — Preparations and Precautions — Arma- 
ments and War — A Later Transaction — The 




Grey-Cambon Letters of 1912 — Endorsement 
by the Cabinet. 


Death of Lady Grey — The Algeciras Con- 
ference — British Diplomatic Obligations — 
Mistrust in France — The Testing Case of 
Casablanca — German Operations in Paris — 

And at St. Petersburg — Reassuring France — 

The Strengthening of the Entente — A 
Letter to Campbell-Bannerman — The Ger- 
man Place in the Sun. 


The Sultan and the Sinai Peninsula — His 
Claim to the Gulf of Akaba — Inviting an 
Ultimatum — Cromer and the Oriental Mind 
— The Disturbance of “Beech Sunday” — 

The Situation in Constantinople — Predomi- 
nance of German Influence and How Ob- 
tained — A Cynical Policy — The Denshawai 
Incident — A Difficult Decision — Lord 
Cromer's Opinion — Life in London and the 


North Sea and Baltic — Negotiating with 
Germany — French Apprehensions — Lord 
Ripon's Opinion — Royal Visits — Embarrass- 
ments and Suspicions — Self-poisoning in Ger- 


The Necessity of an Understanding with 
Russia — The Persian Danger-point — “Vive 
La Duma!” — Benckendorff’s Question — An 
Unfavourable Atmosphere — Sowing Mis- 
chief — Gains and Losses of the Persian 
Agreement — Letters to Nicolson — A Train 
of Minor Troubles — A Dinner to Isvolsky. 




XI. THE SECOND CRISIS (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 166 
Russia, Austria and Balkan Policy — The 
Young Turk Revolution — An Austrian An- 
nouncement — The British Attitude — The 
Opening of The Straits — A Russian Demand 
— Isvolsky's Explanations at Cowes — Serbian 
Demand for Compensation — A Serious Situa- 
tion — Russian Support and Its Withdrawal 
— Consternation in Russia — A Charge Re- 
futed — An Ominous Parallel — The Ques- 
tion of the Congo — Humanitarianism and 
Politics — Cabinet Differences — The Eight 


The King's Visits Abroad — Unfounded Sus- 
picions — The Supposed “Encircling Policy" — 

The King’s Illness and Death — An Estimate 
of His Character — Legend and Fact — Intan- 
gible Qualities — His Popularity a National 
Asset — The Value of the Monarchy as a 
British Institution — King George’s Acces- 

XIII. THE THIRD CRISIS (Agadir) .... 210 

Death of George Grey — Trouble in Morocco 
— The French March to Fez — The German 
Retort — The “Panther’’ at Agadir — The 
British Attitude — The Silence of Berlin — 
Lloyd George’s Speech — German Protests — 
German and French Bargaining — British 
Efforts for Peace — Some Moments of Relief 
— A Theory of German Action — German 
Policy Reviewed — Some German Ambassadors. 

XIV. THE FOURTH CRISIS (The Balkan War) . 240 

Haldane’s Visit to Berlin — Advantages and 
Drawbacks — An Unacceptable Formula — 
Continuance of Naval Rivalry — The Attack 
upon Turkey — Victory of the Balkan Allies 




— Bulgaria Dissatisfied — Second Balkan War 
— Defeat of Bulgaria — Treaty of Bucharest 
— Its Consequences — Complications between 
the Powers — The Ambassadors' Conference — 
Questions at Issue, Albania, Scutari and 
the -ZEgean Islands — Servian Claims and 
Austrian Opposition — The Importance of 
Djakova — A Peaceful Settlement — Cambon, 
Benckendorff and Lichnowsky — A Neglected 


King George’s Visit to Paris — A Reminiscence 
of the Review — A Request from the French 
— Naval Conversations with Russia — Reasons 
for Consenting — The French Motive and 
the Russian — Questions in Parliament and 
the Answer — Explanatory Despatches — 
Sazonof’s Visit to Balmoral — Bethmann- 
Hollweg’s Allegation and the Facts — An 
Unwarranted Suggestion — The European 
Situation in June 1914 — Failure of Pro- 
posals to Abate Armaments — Germany and 
the “Naval Holiday” — An Apparently Im- 
proving Situation — A Conversation with 
Lichnowsky — Opinion in France, Germany 
and Russia. 


The Murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdi- 
nand — Sympathy with Austria — An Unproved 
Assumption — The Ultimatum to Serbia — Ser- 
bian Submission and Austrian Ruthlessness 
— The Week before the War — Four Guiding 
Thoughts — The Proposal of a Conference — 

The German Veto — Bethmann-Hollweg and 
the German Military Party — The German 
Bid for British Neutrality — A Dishonouring 
Proposal — The Inevitable Answer — An In- 




— Difference between Russian and German 
Mobilization — The Position of Germany and 
Austria— How It Seemed at the Time- 
Opinion in the Cabinet and the Country — 
The Anti-War Party — Interviews with 
Cam bon. 


Sir Edward Grey Frontispiece 


Sir George Grey. Grandfather of Viscount Grey of Fallodon xviii 
Captain Grey. Father of Viscount Grey of Fallodon . . . xxiv 

Sir Edward Grey, 1892 30 

The Old House, Fallodon 56 

M. Paul Cambon 78 

Count Metternich. German Ambassador in London, 1901- 
1911 126 

The Silver Fir. Lord Grey seen beneath it in the Garden of 
Fallodon 142 

Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, K.G. British Ambassador in 
St. Petersburg, 1904-1906, and Permanent Under-Secretary for 
Foreign Affairs, 1906-1910 206 

The Foreign Office 222 

The Right Hon. Viscount Haldane of Cloan, O.M. . 242 

Count Albert Mensdorff. Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in 
London, 1904-1914 258 

Count Benckendorff. Russian Ambassador in London, 1903- 
1917 270 

Sir William Tyrrell, K.C.M.G. Private Secretary to Lord 
Grey, 1907-19 15, and now Permanent Under-Secretary for 
Foreign Affairs 286 

Lord Carnock. Formerly Sir Arthur Nicholson. British Am- 
bassador in St. Petersburg, 1905-1910, and Permanent Under- 
secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1910-1916 306 

The Right Hon. H. H. Asquith. (Now the Earl of Oxford 
and Asquith, K.G.) 3*8 



I T is of vital importance to the world that there should 
be a true account of the events that led up to the Great 
War: without this there can be no right understanding 
of the causes of the war; and without such understanding 
nations will not perceive how to avoid the recurrence of 
another and greater disaster. It has therefore seemed a 
duty for one who had been long and intimately concerned 
in pre-war diplomacy to give his narrative of events, his 
interpretation of them, and the impression produced by 
them on his own mind. I have therefore had no doubt 
that this book ought to be written, and the decision to 
write it needs no excuse or apology. 

Whether it should be published now, or reserved for a 
later time, is open to question. 

War has stirred passion, enlisted sympathies, and 
aroused hatreds ; many of the war generation have formed 
opinions that nothing will modify, and are dominated by 
predilections or prejudices that have become an insepara- 
ble part of their lives. With such people mental diges- 
tion ceases to be able to assimilate anything except what 
nourishes convictions already formed; all else is rejected 
or resented; and new material or reflections about the 
war are searched, not for the truth, but for fuel to feed the 
flame of pre-conceived opinion. Especially is this likely 
to be the case in the country into whose soul the iron of 
adversity and defeat has most deeply entered ; and not 
till a new generation rules will books about the war be 
read, not to be refuted or acclaimed, but to be understood. 




There is also another consideration that makes against 
immediate publication. When a writer has taken a prom- 
inent part in controversial affairs the reception of all that 
he says about the past is apt to be coloured by the desire 
of readers to encourage or to depress the part that he may 
yet take in present or future controversies. A book of 
this character, therefore, fails less in its influence if pub- 
lished after the life of the writer, when praise or censure 
can have no effect upon him. 

On the other hand, there is a new generation now grow- 
ing up whose opinions about the war are yet to be formed ; 
and there are many even of the war generation who are 
dispassionately and increasingly anxious to discover truth. 
They ought to have the fullest material at their disposal 
now, and it is mainly for these that this book is written. 

It must not, however, be supposed, because the writer 
was for so many years, and those the most critical, at the 
centre of affairs that his account is necessarily authorita- 
tive and complete. It is precisely the man at the centre 
who is often unable to see the wood for the trees. In addi- 
tion to this it must be remembered that the scope of each 
individual mind is fragmentary. Try as he may, each 
one of us can grasp but one aspect of the truth ; and this 
is all that he can convey to others. Probably some his- 
torian of the future, more remote than we are from the 
actual events, will reach an eminence of view about the 
war to which we cannot yet attain. 

Two temptations that impair the value of their work 
inevitably beset public men who write memoirs. One is 
a tendency to reconstruct the past to suit the present views 
and feelings of the writer; the other is a natural desire to 
set his own part in affairs in a pleasing light. It is prob- 
ably not given to any human being to be superior to 



these tendencies; even the effort to avoid them, on one 
side, may land him in error on another. Someone has 
said that there may be as much vanity in wearing fustian 
as smart clothes or uniform, and the writer who deter- 
mines not to vaunt his own part in affairs may easily fall 
into the vanity of self-depreciation. 

I have, however, made an attempt to avoid these pit- 
falls, and to describe events as they actually happened, 
and my own part in them and my feelings about them as 
these actually were at the time. 

This book naturally presents the British view, or, at 
least, that portion of it which was, and is, my own; but 
in it an endeavour has been made to envisage also the 
international aspect of the war. Indeed, the main pur- 
pose and desire has not been to make vindication or con- 
demnation of any country the final word. That would be 
a barren and unprofitable end. The endeavour has been 
made to present the facts in such a way as to discover, or 
help others to discover and draw, conclusions that may 
avoid another war of the same scope and character. 

There is comparatively little mention of persons with 
whom the writer worked at the Foreign Office. This is 
not from lack of gratitude to men like Sir Charles Har- 
dinge and Sir Arthur Nicolson who were in succession 
the Under-Secretaries and Heads of the Department, 
while I was Secretary of State, and to many others in the 
Foreign Office. It would require many pages to make 
adequate mention of them all, but I do pay an earnest and 
sincere tribute to their public spirit and able service to 
the State. It was a privilege as well as a pleasure to work 
with them. 

It has been a great satisfaction, since I left office, to 
see great knowledge, ability, and unsurpassed devotion to 


the public service recognized in the promotion of Sir 
Eyre Crowe 1 to be head of the Foreign Office. To this 
I may add another pleasure: that of having seen Sir Eric 
Drummond, who had been closely associated with me 
during the war, selected, with the approval of high for- 
eign opinion as well as of his own chiefs, to be Secretary- 
General of the League of Nations. 

One other name must be specially mentioned: that of 
Sir William Tyrrell, who was for many years my chief 
Private Secretary. The public has little or no means of 
knowing how much it owes in public service to special 
gifts or qualities in individual civil servants in high posi- 
tions in Departments of State. In each case, where such 
qualities exist, a man renders service, peculiarly his own, 
besides taking an able part in the conduct of business in 
the Department. Tyrrell’s power of understanding the 
point of view of foreigners has been of the greatest value 
in making the British position both more intelligible and 
more acceptable to them. For nothing so predisposes 
men to understand as making them feel that they are un- 
derstood. I had occasion, in office, to know the great 
value of Tyrrell’s public service; but the thing that I 
prize is our friendship, that began in the Foreign Office, 
and has continued uninterrupted and intimate after 
official ties ceased. 

This book has been written under one great disadvan- 
tage — the disability of impaired sight. This has made 
it impossible for me to search through masses of docu- 
ments and to select for myself. It would not have been 
fair to ask that anyone in the Foreign Office should be 

1 Since these words were written the public service of the country ha9 suffered 
an irreparable loss in the death of Sir Eyre Crowe. 

Portrait by George Richmond, R.A. 


Grandfather of Viscount Grey of Fallodon. Aged about 60 




diverted from public work, to undertake this heavy task, 
for the book is entirely personal and unofficial. 

Other personal notes of friendship or close association 
will be found in this book, and these are not entirely lim- 
ited to British friends. The chapter on America will 
show how quickly the official relations of individuals may 
pass into something closer and more intimate; something 
that has a place in the affections as well as in the memory. 
The mention of Roosevelt, Page, and House will be an 

I therefore asked Mr. J. A. Spender, a friend of many 
years, to undertake this for me, and the book has had 
the great advantage of his collaboration. His long expe- 
rience as a writer on public affairs and his able impar- 
tiality of mind have made his help invaluable. From 
the masses of material at the Foreign Office he would 
select the documents that seemed to him to be the most 
salient and typical and to throw the clearest light on 
policy. These he would send to me with marked passages 
or comments, to direct attention to special points. From 
the selection so made I have chosen the documents to be 
quoted. I am sure that his trained ability and judgment 
have selected well, that the documents chosen do give a 
fair and not a tendencious or distorted impression of 
policy and transactions at the Foreign Office. Masses of 
other documents in the Foreign Office of course there 
are : many of them would perhaps be deemed of equal im- 
portance with those quoted in this book; but, according 
to my recollection, and to Mr. Spender’s own opinion 
after much search, there are none that would put British 
policy in a different light or that would make any new 
revelation. My grateful thanks are due to the King for 
gracious permission to have access to documents among 



His Majesty’s papers; and to Lord Curzon , 1 who, as Sec- 
retary of State, gave the permission that I asked for Spen- 
der to consult all official records at the Foreign Office be- 
longing to the years when I was there as Under-Secretary 
or Secretary of State. I am also very grateful to Mr. 
Gaselee, the librarian at the Foreign Office, and to his 
Department for the help given to Spender in searching 
for special documents. All my private papers, with two 
exceptions, were left at the Foreign Office for safe keep- 
ing, and are still there. These were placed by me at 
Spender’s disposal, and from them he has made some 
selections. What has been said about the fairness of selec- 
tions from official documents applies also to those made 
from private papers. But it would be very unfair to the 
Foreign Office to transact important matters through pri- 
vate channels. If the staff of an Office is to serve the 
State well they must know what is being done, and the 
record must be accessible to them in official documents. 
The private papers, therefore, have no State secrets to 
reveal. The two exceptions mentioned above, which 
were not with my papers at the Foreign Office, are a pri- 
vate letter from Lichnowsky and the “House” Memoran- 
dum and my covering note upon it; both these are printed 
in the places in this book to which they are appropriate . 2 

All care has been taken to ensure that nothing of real 
or great importance should be overlooked and that inac- 

1 The news of Lord Curzon’s death came while these sheets were in the 
Press, and to the expression of gratitude must now be added that of great 
regret at the close of his brilliant life of public service. 

2 It may perhaps be convenient to explain to the reader who is unacquainted 
with diplomatic forms that the practice of the Foreign Secretary is to give his 
record of a conversation with a Foreign Ambassador the form of a despatch to 
the British Ambassador in the country concerned. Nearly all the conversations 
recorded in these volumes are in that form. For details of the practice of the 
Foreign Secretary in this and other matters see Vol. II, Chapter XXX. 


curacies should not creep in ; but in a book that extends 
over so many years and deals with so many complex 
affairs some mistakes or inaccuracies may occur. Memory 
may err in some detail, but the main outlines it has traced 
and the impressions recorded are true. 

My sight, which still enables me to write, is not equal 
to the sustained reading of long tracts of manuscript or 
even of print. Revision and the correction of proofs 
have therefore been left in the main to better eyes 
than mine. 

What political value the book has must be left to 
others to determine. It presents my own views, but its 
object is much more to stimulate thought than to press 
that these views should be accepted as conclusive. Those 
of us who grew to maturity in the nineteenth century 
acquired our sense of values and formed our first opinions 
in the latter part of the Victorian age. The general point 
of view in domestic affairs was already changing rapidly 
before 1914. The war may be regarded as the division 
between two epochs in foreign affairs as well. We, who 
were in foremost places in 1904, belonged to one epoch 
and have lived on into another. We are now confronted 
by problems that are new to us, our vision may be ren- 
dered unsteady by things that seem disquieting or alarm- 
ing, because they are strange to us. Control of affairs has 
already passed in part and must soon pass entirely to 
younger and fresher minds, who may see further and 
more clearly, because much that preoccupies us with its 
strangeness will be to them familiar and intelligible. It is 
not for us to be confident that, because we know more of 
the past, we can therefore see more clearly than they into 
the future. What we can do is to record for them our 
experience, and our reflections upon it, in the hope that 


these may provide some suggestion and impetus to thought 
that in their fresh minds may be fruitful. 

This book is not intended to be a biography, and there- 
fore no account will be given of boyhood, of school or 
college, or of marriage and home life, except in so far 
as they had influence upon public life or were affected 
by it. 

In early years public affairs had no interest for me: my 
recollection is most meagre and trivial. 

I remember being asked by my father, at the outbreak 
of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, on which side I was. 
My age was then about 8^4 years and I had little feeling 
in the matter; but, moved probably by what I had heard 
of Waterloo, and perhaps also by a liking for a game 
called “German” as distinct from ordinary dominoes, I 
replied that I was on the side of the Germans. My father 1 
had been in the Rifle Brigade and had fought in alliance 
with the French in the Crimea. My answer did not please 
him; he reproved me for my preference, and I relapsed 
into the indifference from which, but for his question, I 
should never have emerged. 

It must have been a few months later that I was called 
out on to the balcony at Fallodon on a winter evening 
to see a display of Aurora Borealis. A great part of the 
sky was not only irradiated with light, but suffused with 
pink. The recollection of the apparition has always been 
very positive and distinct to me; and I have never, in 
after-years, seen any display of Aurora Borealis- that ap- 
proached this. It may be, therefore, that imagination has 
enhanced the glory and beauty of it, but it remains in 

a Capt. George Henry Grey (afterwards Lieut.-Col. of Northumberland 
Militia), Equerry to the Prince of Wales 1859-74. See Life of Edward VII , 
vol. i, p. 155’ 


memory as a wonderful vision. I remember my grande 
father saying, as we stood on the balcony, that if Paris 
had not been so distant we might have thought that the 
Prussians were burning it and that this was causing the 
illumination of the sky. 

In the late summer of 1873 I was taken on a visit to 
the Highlands. We were returning by train from Inver- 
ness. My grandfather and I were alone in the com- 
partment. At one of the stations where the train stopped 
(Kingussie, probably) my grandfather looked out of the 
window and I heard a greeting from someone on the 
platform. A gentleman, who was a stranger to me, was 
welcomed into the compartment, and thence to Perth an 
incessant and animated conversation went on, of which 
I understood nothing and took no heed. At Perth the 
stranger parted from us, and when he had gone my grand- 
father told me it was Mr. Gladstone. The information 
meant nothing to me at the time, but years afterwards my 
grandfather asked me if I remembered the occasion, and 
told me what the subject of the talk had been. It was the 
technical but very embarrassing difficulty in which Mr. 
Gladstone, then Prime Minister, was placed by having 
taken a second office without vacating his seat and being 
re-elected. My grandfather, Sir George Grey, 1 though 
no longer in office, had been a colleague of Gladstone’s 
in previous Cabinets; he had had very great experience as 
Home Secretary, and had been forty years in the House 
of Commons, of which he was still a member. He was 
an authority on parliamentary procedure, and no doubt 

1 Chancellor of the Duchy 0 f Lancaster in Lord Melbourne’s second Govern- 
ment (1841) ; Home Secretary in Lord John Russell’s first Government, 1846-52; 
Colonial Secretary in Lord Aberdeen’s Government, 1854-5 I Home Secretary in 
Lord Palmerston’s first Government, 1855-8; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lan- 
caster, and subsequently Home Secretary in Lord Palmerston’s second Govern- 
ment, 1859-66. 



Gladstone welcomed the opportunity of discussing this 
particular point with him. 

At the end of 1874 m Y father died. After his marriage 
he had still continued to live at Fallodon with his parents, 
and he and my mother had kept house there when my 
grandparents were absent for the Sessions of Parliament. 
After his death my mother and all of us remained at 
Fallodon, my grandfather now taking a father’s place 
with his grandchildren. 1 

As for school-life, it is but necessary to say that I was 
fortunate in being sent in 1873 t0 Temple Grove, at East 
Sheen, a preparatory school conducted by O. C. Water- 
field, an able man, who endeavoured, not without some 
measure of success, to teach boys, even at the age of 13, 
how to think as well as to learn. 

In 1876 I was sent to Dr. Bowley’s house at Winches- 
ter, under the Headmastership of Ridding; and thence in 
1880 to Oxford, to Balliol College, of which Jowett was 
Master. I left both places with feelings of affection 
second only to those felt for home. 

I do not remember taking any interest in public events 
till the news of the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish 
in Dublin in 1882. I was then an undergraduate at 
Balliol, and I joined in the clamour for martial law. This 
I repeated to my grandfather, who met it with the critical 
comment, “Martial law is the suspension of all law.” 

A few months later my grandfather died, and I in- 
herited the house and property at Fallodon. In 1884, 
after a long spell of what is generally called idleness, but 

1 There were seven of us, four boys and three girls. A Memoir of Sir George 
Grey , written by Dr. Creighton (Bishop of London), was published in 1901 by 
Longmans, Green Sc Co. It gives an account, written with intimate knowledge, 
of a singularly lovable as well as upright character. Whoever reads it will get 
some impression of how much happiness and benefit we owed to our grand- 
father’s affection and influence. See Appendix A. 


Father of Viscount Grey of Fallodon 




which was in my case very active and strenuous pursuit 
of pleasure in the form of sport and games, interest in 
all manner of serious things came suddenly. I began to 
read good literature, poetry excited me to enthusiasm, and 
I read everything serious, however prolix, with interest. 
I remember being absorbed in the Life of George Eliot, 
when it appeared. The same rush of interest applied it- 
self to public affairs. I read political leading articles and 
magazines, but at the very outset of this awakening a 
thing happened that decided the course of life for me. 

In 1884 Gladstone’s Government proposed an extension 
of the franchise to the counties on similar terms to those 
on which a Conservative Government had given it to the 
boroughs in 1867. The House of Lords rejected the pro- 
posal ; there was great indignation in the counties, and a 
franchise demonstration was arranged at Alnwick, the 
county town near Fallodon. 

Nothing was known of my politics, but my family 
name was notably associated with the Reform Bill of 
1832; my grandfather had sat from 1848 to 1852 for the 
district, and had in fact been the last Liberal representa- 
tive for it. I was asked to take the chair at the demonstra- 
tion at Alnwick. It seemed to me very unfair that men 
in the counties generally, and in Northumberland espe- 
cially, should not have the franchise that had been given 
to the boroughs so many years before. I was country- 
bred, and a sense of fair play and strong local feeling en- 
listed all my sympathies with the demonstration. The 
invitation was accepted without hesitation; my speech 
was short and commonplace enough; it was my first 
attempt at a public speech or at any speech on politics, 
but I got through it, after much previous anxiety, more 
easily than I expected. The extension of the franchise 


was at this moment the dividing line between patties, 
and thus was decided the party to which I was to belong. 

I was chosen as Liberal candidate for the new constitu- 
ency of the Berwick-on-Tweed Division of Northumber- 
land, which included Alnwick and all the neighbourhood 
of my home. The new electors, who had long resented 
their exclusion from the franchise to which they were 
now admitted, went to the poll in large numbers for the 
party that had given them the vote. I was thus elected to 
Parliament in November 1885. 

In a very short time there came another turning-point. 
From 1880 to 1885 Gladstone’s Government had been 
driven to coercive measures to govern Ireland. They had 
been in bitter conflict with the Irish Home Rule members 
led by Parnell, whom Gladstone had denounced as 
marching through rapine to the dismemberment of the 
Empire. This had not deterred the Conservative Govern- 
ment that succeeded on Gladstone’s resignation in the 
summer of 1885 from entering into friendly relations 
with Parnell, with whom Lord Carnarvon, a member of 
the Conservative Cabinet and Lord-Lieutenant of Ire- 
land, was known to have had an interview. It was clear 
that the Conservative Government had not gone so far 
as to promise a separate Parliament in Dublin, but they 
had spoken of the advantage of large Local Authorities. 
Home Rule was in the air. The Conservative Party 
avowedly received the Irish vote at the General Election 
held in the autumn of 1885. After that election the num- 
ber of Irish Home Rule members was more than doubled; 
there were now eighty-five of them. 

Early in 1886 it was known that Gladstone would advo- 
cate Home Rule. The opinion that he was right in the 
conclusion that the old system of governing Ireland had 



broken down, is now confirmed by after-events. But the 
curve was a very sharp one, and a very important section 
of Liberals who had supported him in opposing Irish 
Home Rulers, could not adjust their course to it. There 
was a split in the party. For me there was no curve, for I 
was new to public life and was only making a start. It 
was open to me, without inconsistency, to be either a 
Home Ruler or a Unionist. 

I have no doubt, taking force of character, energy, and 
intellectual power combined, that Gladstone was the 
greatest man in whose presence I have ever been. I had, 
however, not sufficient experience for this feeling to be as 
strong on my entrance to public life as it became after- 
wards and remains now, and Gladstone’s new departure 
in 1886 was not alone decisive for me. 

There is, however, a difficulty that besets, and probably 
always has and will beset, men of independent mind in 
public life. It is that great men are difficult to follow 
consistently, while lesser men have not the capacity to 
lead. Great minds do not travel for long on the average 
line of thought; the man of average mind, therefore, finds 
great men difficult to follow. 

That a man of Mr. Gladstone’s importance should 
advocate Home Rule was a fact so arresting as to make 
me feel the necessity for thought: the suddenness of the 
change puzzled and made me doubt. 

Then I came across the articles written by John Morley 
in the Pall Mall Gazette during the Irish coercion period 
of Gladstone’s Government. When read in sequence they 
seemed irresistible in their argument that coercion was 
not, under modern conditions, possible as a permanent 
system of governing Ireland. The only alternative was 


Home Rule. I was intellectually convinced: Morley 
seemed to be clear and consistent in his thought about 

Parliament met early in 1886; the Salisbury Govern- 
ment was turned out; Gladstone formed a Liberal Gov- 
ernment with the avowed purpose of producing a Home 
Rule Bill. Morley was made Irish Secretary; on taking 
office he had to seek re-election in his constituency of 
Newcastle-on-Tyne. There was a contest; as member for 
a neighbouring consistency I was asked to help in it and 
did so whole-heartedly. Henceforward I was a Liberal 
Home Ruler. 

Of the first six years spent in the House of Commons 
little need be said. I failed to deliver a maiden speech 
on the second reading of the Home Rule Bill in 1886. 
The press of members desiring to speak was so great, and 
there were so many new members with maiden speeches 
to make, that I was not called on, though for two days I 
rose more than once each day. At last I heard that the 
Speaker had intended to call me, but that the Government 
Whips had put in a strong plea for a member of the party 
senior to me, who had not yet succeeded in getting his 
chance. Probably this was fortunate: the occasion was 
too big for what I had to say or for my force of delivery 
as it was then ; I was left with a feeling of relief at having 
been spared an ordeal, and not at all of disappointment at 
having missed an opportunity. 

But the ordeal was one that had to be faced some time, 
and the next year I summoned courage to make another 
attempt, and succeeded in delivering a speech on the Irish 
question. The success of it did not approach that of 
Asquith’s maiden speech in the same year, of which it 



was justly said that the House listened to it as to the 
speech of a leader. Nevertheless, mine had a modest 
success, and was immediately followed by an invitation 
to my wife and myself to dine with Sir William and Lady 

In 1888 came the first sign of independence. The Con- 
servative Government were promoting Irish Land Pur- 
chase, while opposing Home Rule. Land Purchase had 
been part of Gladstone’s Home Rule policy of 1886, but 
the Liberal Party generally was not prepared to support it 
except as part of Home Rule. Some Unionists held that 
if the Irish land question could be settled by turning ten- 
ants into owners, the political agitation for Home Rule 
would disappear. I did not share this view, but was pre- 
pared to abide by the result of Land Purchase. If it did 
put an end to political agitation by all means let it do so; 
but, if it did not, we should then have the political ques- 
tion free from the complications of the land question. In 
any case, it would be a benefit to Britain and to Ireland to 
have the land question settled. In this Haldane and I 
found ourselves acting together, and an association and 
friendship thus began which endured and strengthened 
as years went on. We each spoke and voted against our 
party, but the recognized term “cave” was thought too 
dignified a word to apply to the independent action of only 
two very junior members of the party. Our effort was 
described as a “rabbit-hole.” With this passing exception 
I spoke and voted whole-heartedly with the Liberal Home 
Rule Party. A sense of the unfairness and inequalities of 
life stirred me and led me to act with what was then the 
advanced section of the party, including those of whom 
John Morley spoke, in a cautionary speech, as young men 



who dreamt dreams. Thus six years passed during which 
interest was centred on the domestic side of politics. 
Then came the General Election of 1892, when I was 
returned to Parliament for the third time. The next 
chapter will begin the narrative, which it is the object of 
this book to tell. 







The 1892 Election — Mr. Gladstone’s Last Government— Under-Secre- 
tary to Lord Rosebery — The Work of the Under-Secretary — 
Continuity of Policy — Great Britain and the Triple Alliance — 
Principles of British Foreign Policy — The Balance of Power. 

I N July 1892 the result of the General Election gave 
to Liberals and Irish Nationalists combined a ma- 
jority of forty in the House of Commons. The politi- 
cal alliance between Liberals and Irish was complete; the 
Unionist Government was displaced on the meeting of 
the new House of Commons in August, and Mr. Glad- 
stone formed a Liberal Home Rule Cabinet, the Irish 
standing out of office, but giving assurances of solid and 
thorough support, for the introduction and passing of a 
Home Rule Bill were to be the first and main objects of 
the Government. 

Lord Rosebery went to the Foreign Office, entering 
office, it was said, with some reluctance and not without 
some representation from outside purely Liberal quar- 
ters that his presence at the Foreign Office was essential 
in the public interest. He selected me as his Parliamen- 
tary Under-Secretary. 

I had had no special training for Foreign Office work, 
nor had I till then paid special attention to foreign affairs. 



But special knowledge is not a necessary qualification in a 
young man appointed to a Parliamentary Under-Secre- 
taryship. His business is not to be an expert, but to be 
trained in capacity for public affairs. The theory and 
practice of parliamentary government is not that of gov- 
ernment by experts, but by men of general experience and 
proved capacity presiding over experts who are the civil 
servants in our public affairs. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign 
Office had, in the official routine, little share in directing 
policy. He had access at all times to his chief, the Secre- 
tary of State; he could express his views of what was 
being done by memoranda or orally; he could resign if 
he did not agree. He saw all important telegrams and 
despatches, but they came to him after they had been 
settled and despatched. His business was to make himself 
thoroughly acquainted with all that was done in the Office, 
to get up carefully any particular point on which infor- 
mation was sought by Members of the House of Com- 
mons, to make statements on foreign affairs that should be 
in entire accordance with the policy of the Cabinet, and 
to defend and explain that policy without giving offence 
to foreign countries. It was not for him to take upon 
himself the responsibility of indiscretions; he had to be 
discreet without being unnecessarily reserved. It was an 
admirable and interesting training, particularly when, as 
sometimes happened, there had been differences of opin- 
ion in the Cabinet resulting in a decision that was a com- 
promise. On such occasions the Under-Secretary was 
informed by his chief of the decision reached and received 
general instructions from him. He had then to interpret 
and expound the policy to the House of Commons, some- 
times at considerable length, in such a way as to satisfy 



one party in the Cabinet without saying a word that might 
seem to the other party to be disloyal to the compromise 
to which they had agreed. He had to do this without 
having been present at the Cabinet discussions at which 
the differences and shades of opinion had been manifested 
and at which the decision of policy had been reached. 
The statement had to be made in public, in face of an 
opposition alert and on the watch for an opening, and 
with Cabinet Ministers who were parties to the policy 
sitting on each side of him. A compromise is generally 
a dull conclusion of interesting, sometimes painfully in- 
teresting, discussions; it is anodyne and sedative, but it is 
not always the negation of two opposite policies and the 
adoption of a middle course between them. It seemed 
to the Under-Secretary that it sometimes consisted of 
one section getting its way as to what should be done, 
while the other section made conditions as to how the 
policy should be formulated and announced. 

There were not, however, differences of opinion in 
the Cabinets of 1892-5 about grave matters of foreign 
policy; the main difference was as to whether British 
East Africa and Uganda should become definitely Brit- 
ish possessions, and whether a railway to Uganda should 
be made. These questions were under the Foreign Office, 
but they were questions of Imperial Expansion not of for- 
eign policy, and later on they were naturally transferred 
to the Colonial Office. They were made the subject of 
controversy and attack by the Unionist Opposition, 
whereas on matters of foreign policy that Opposition gave 
general support to the Liberal Government, both while 
Lord Rosebery was at the Foreign Office and when he was 
Prime Minister. I will, therefore, not dwell further on 
these matters that seemed so difficult and important at the 


time, and will come to matters of foreign policy that 
are the chief subject of this narrative. 

Before and during the Election of 1892 r. Glad- 
stone kept foreign affairs out of party politics; indeed, 
he expressly said in one speech that he did not find fault 
with the foreign policy of Lord Salisbury from 1886 
to 1892, and thereby ruled it to be not a matter of contro- 
versy between parties. 

Lord Rosebery, when he took the Foreign Office, in- 
formed the Ambassadors of the Triple Alliance that it 
was his intention to continue Lord Salisbury’s policy. 
One of my first recollections is that of reading the record 
of the conversations in which this was conveyed to these 
three Ambassadors, and in which they expressed their cor- 
dial satisfaction at the intimation. 

The traditional policy which the new Government 
took up was that of a distinct friendship with the Triple 
Alliance; there was no engagement, no promise, no defi- 
nite agreement; it was a policy that could be changed at 
any moment. Great Britain had remained sufficiently 
detached and free for Mr. Goschen, a member of Lord 
Salisbury s Cabinet, speaking from the Treasury bench in 
the House of Commons, to describe our position as one of 
splendid isolation. On the other hand, there was some- 
thing that in practice manifested itself as a working ar- 
rangement; so manifest and well known was it that French 
newspapers, when particularly provoked by friction with 
Great Britain, would write wrathfully not of the Triple 
but of the Quadruple Alliance. British Governments in 
these years sided diplomatically with the Triple Alliance. 
Those who affirm that England’s policy has always been 
that of the Balance of Power in Europe should consider 


whether British policy in these years does entirely agree 
with this theory of it. 

I have never, so far as I recollect, used the phrase 
“Balance of Power.” I have often deliberately avoided 
the use of it, and I have never consciously set it before 
me as something to be pursued, attained, and preserved. 
I am not, therefore, qualified to explain or define what it 
is. I imagine it to mean that when one Power or group 
of Powers is the strongest “bloc” in Europe, our policy 
has been, or should be, that of creating, or siding with, 
some other combination of Powers, in order to make a 
counterpoise to the strongest Power or Group and so to 
preserve equilibrium in Europe. Now the Triple Alli- 
ance in 1886 and the following years, when Lord Salis- 
bury and Lord Rosebery were Prime Ministers, was in- 
disputably the strongest political combination, the most 
powerful thing in Europe. Nevertheless, the policy of 
friendship with it was followed by the British Govern- 
ment even before the Franco-Russian Alliance had come 
into existence as a counterpoise; and this policy was con- 
tinued for many years, while the Triple Alliance con- 
tinued, in spite of the Franco-Russian Alliance, to be the 
dominant factor in European diplomacy. During this 
period, therefore, Great Britain did not attempt to create 
any counterpoise to the strongest group ; on the contrary, 
the British Government sided with that group. I do not 
affirm that this, when closely examined, disproves the 
theory that the tendency of British policy has been to 
preserve a balance of power; but there is sufficient ap- 
parent inconsistency with the theory to make it necessary 
to examine what may be called the Triple Alliance policy 
of the British Government from 1886 to the end of the 
century and to ask why it was followed. 



I suppose that in this, as in most investigations of Brit- 
ish foreign policy, the true reason is not to be found in 
far-sighted views or large conceptions or great schemes. 
A Minister beset with the administrative work of a great 
Office must often be astounded to read of the carefully 
laid plans, the deep, unrevealed motives that critics or ad- 
mirers attribute to him. Onlookers free from responsi- 
bility have time to invent, and they attribute to Ministers 
many things that Ministers have no time to invent for 
themselves, even if they are clever enough to be able to 
do it. If all secrets were known it would probably be 
found that British Foreign Ministers have been guided 
by what seemed to them to be the immediate interest of 
this country without making elaborate calculations for the 
future. Their best qualities have been negative rather 
than positive. They would not execute sharp turns or 
quick changes of front; they were not disposed to make 
mischief or stir up strife amongst other nations, or to 
fish in troubled waters; for their instinct was that peace 
and stability in Europe were the conditions best suited 
to British trade; and they have generally shrunk from 
committing themselves for future contingencies, from 
creating expectations that they might not be able to fulfil, 
and from saying at any time more than they really meant. 
On the whole, the British Empire has been well served 
by these methods. It has, at any rate, been saved from 
capital and disastrous mistakes; such mistakes as are 
made by a great thinker, calculating far ahead, who 
thinks or calculates wrongly. It has also been saved from 
the disaster of seeing a policy that needs for success the 
continuous supervision of a great man break down and be 
wrecked when its great author has been succeeded by 
inferior men. Critics may find many mistakes and short- 



comings in British foreign policy of the last hundred 
years, and these may be legitimately exposed, or even de- 
rided; but, when all has been said, let them ask, what 
other nation in Europe can, after a review of the last 
hundred years, say confidently of its own policy, “si monu- 
mentum quaeris, circumspice?” The result, no doubt, 
is due to qualities of character or industry inherent in 
the race, to advantages of geographical position, to things 
that were not to be placed to the special credit of Minis- 
ters for Foreign Affairs; but it is at least a tenable view 
that the conduct of those affairs has been suited to the 
development and needs of the Empire. 

Whether the great European catastrophe of 1914 could 
have been prevented by any British statesmanship and 
other questions connected with that issue will be exam- 
ined when the narrative reaches that point. I return 
to consider the reasons that made British policy in 1886 
and afterwards lean to the Triple Alliance. The most 
obvious reason was that the British Empire had occasions 
of acute friction with France or with Russia, friction 
much more frequent and acute than the countries of the 
Triple Alliance. We therefore sided with those with 
whom we had least cause of quarrel. It was also neces- 
sary to have diplomatic support in Egypt. Lord Cromer’s 
work there was too important to be given up without loss 
and prejudice to British interests; it was also too in- 
trinsically good for Egypt, both financially and humanely, 
for us to think of abandoning it without a sense of shame. 
But it could not be carried on without diplomatic support 
from the foreign representatives at Cairo, and, since we 
were confronted there by French and Russian opposition, 
the support of the Triple Alliance was essential to us. 
These are obvious, and, some people will perhaps think, 



sufficient reasons, but underlying and strengthening them, 
there was, I think, a belief that the power of the Triple 
Alliance made for stability and therefore peace in Eu- 
rope; that France and Russia, though militarily the 
weaker, were the restless Powers, while the Triple Alli- 
ance was on the whole contented. The conclusion I would 
draw is that Great Britain has not in theory been adverse 
to the predominance of a strong group in Europe when 
it seemed to make for stability and peace. To support 
such a combination has generally been her first choice; it 
is only when the dominant Power becomes aggressive and 
she feels her own interests to be threatened that she, by an 
instinct of self-defence, if not by deliberate policy, gravi- 
tates to anything that can fairly be described as a Balance 
of Power. 




An Incident at Cairo — The Rough Side of German Friendship — French 
Suspicions — A Siamese Crisis — A Timely Apology — Trouble in 
West Africa — The “Grey Declaration” — And Its Origin — Cabinet 
Objections — Great Britain and Japan — The Beginning of Friend- 

I SOON became aware that the policy of friendship 
with the Triple Alliance, however satisfactory it 
might be to the Governments of Germany, Austria, 
and Italy, was not altogether comfortable for ourselves. 
Lord Rosebery had not been long at the Foreign Office 
before he had an unpleasant experience. 

Turkey was entertaining projects for making railways 
to develop Asia Minor. Concessions for railways, or 
anything else, were not then to be obtained from the 
Turkish Government without diplomatic effort. An ap- 
plicant for a concession, however economically sound and 
attractive the terms he offered, had little prospect of 
success unless supported by his own Government. Where 
diplomatic pressure was the rule, commercial interests 
could not succeed without it. British firms were applying 
for railway concessions in Asia Minor, and the British 
Ambassador at Constantinople was, with the approval of 
the Foreign Office, giving them support. German firms 
were also applying, and the German Ambassador sup- 
porting them. Suddenly there came a sort of ultimatum 
from Berlin, requiring us to cease competition for rail- 
way concessions in Turkey for which Germans were ap- 



plying, and stating that, unless we did so, the German 
Consul at Cairo would withdraw support from British 
Administration in Egypt. Instructions in this sense were 
actually sent without delay to the German Representa- 
tive at Cairo, and the German ultimatum was followed — 
almost accompanied — by a despairing telegram from Lord 
Cromer pointing out that it would be impossible to carry 
on his work in Egypt without German support in face 
of French and Russian opposition. 1 

It was the abrupt and rough peremptoriness of the Ger- 
man action that gave me an unpleasant impression. In a 
humorous account of the description given by one woman 
of another with whom she had had an altercation in 
an omnibus, the phrase occurs “with her the word is the 
blow.” This was the German method. It cannot be 
said that in substance the contention was absolutely un- 
reasonable; the Germans were, at any rate, entitled to 
ask that, in return for German support in Egypt, we 
should not oppose some specified German interests else- 
where. Had this been suggested we could not fairly have 
refused to consider an arrangement, if one had been pro- 
posed, that on the face of it was reasonable. But the 
method adopted by Germany in this instance was not 
that of a friend. There was no choice for us but to give 
way, unless we were ready to face the opening up of the 
whole Egyptian question without a single Great Power on 
our side. Lord Rosebery withdrew competition for the 
railway concessions in Turkey; things in Egypt resumed 

For the relations of Great Britain and Germany in regard to Egypt see 
Fitzmaurice s Life of Lord Granville , vol i, chapters ix and xii: “Soon after 

the fall of the third Administration of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Salisbury, once more 
installed in power, recognized the necessity of an entente with Germany, and 
for many years to come the position of Great Britain in Egypt had to depend on 
the good-will of the Triple Alliance and of Germany in particular, which in 
that Alliance held the prerogative vote” (i. 453). 


their normal course, and the incident was over. But it 
left a sense of discomfort and a bad taste behind. It ex- 
posed rudely the insidious weakness due to our position in 
Egypt. It was open to Germany to repeat the squeeze, 
whenever she desired to exclude us from a commercial 
field in which she was interested. As long as we assumed 
responsibility for the government of Egypt, the Capitula- 
tions were like a noose round our neck, which any Great 
Power, having rights under the Capitulations, could 
tighten at will. In this case the noose had been roughly 
jerked by Germany. The episode was an illustration of 
the hollowness of the phrase “splendid isolation.” It was 
not “isolation,” and it was far from being “splendid.” 
This particular incident passed without any conscious 
effect on our policy, but it gave rise to some reflections 
upon the weakness of our position, and it may be that 
similar experiences were an element in the policy of our 
successors, the Unionist Governments of Lord Salisbury 
and Mr. Balfour. 

There were, however, other things incidental to Brit- 
ish policy at this period which were much more serious 
and unpleasant than an occasional exhibition of the rough 
side of German friendship. Among these was the con- 
stant friction, rising on the slightest provocation to quar- 
rel and hostility, between Great Britain and France or 
Russia. The ground-swell of ill-will never ceased. Brit- 
ish interests touched those of France and Russia in many 
parts of the world ; and where interests touch, an atmos- 
phere of ill-will is always dangerous. The blackest sus- 
picion thrives in it, like a noxious growth under dark 
skies in murky air. The most simple and straightforward 
acts of one Government are attributed by the other to sin- 
ister motives ; the agents of each Government on the spot 


prick and stir their Colonial Office at home with accounts 
of what the agents of the other Government are doing; 
the smallest incident may assume proportions that 
threaten the peace between great nations. So it was espe- 
cially between Great Britain and France at this time. The 
controversy that arose about Siam in 1893 is an instance 
of how quickly and suddenly a catastrophe might have 
been caused by something that had little real importance. 
It is so good an illustration of this that it may be worth 
while to recall it in some detail. 

France was laying claim, on behalf of her own pos- 
sessions in Eastern Asia, to a frontier which the Siamese 
Government contended was an encroachment on Siamese 
territory. In Eastern Asia there are many points where 
territorial claims provide material for argument; they 
grade from the most solid substance to the faintest shad- 
ows. It is not necessary now to revive argument over the 
merits of the controversy between France and Siam. 
Strange names, the river Mekong with its “Great Bend,” 
Battambang and Angkor, and others were for a time 
“familiar in our mouths as household words,” though we 
were only indirectly concerned. We had commercial 
interests in Siam, and the independence and integrity of 
Siam were therefore of concern to us; Siam was a com- 
paratively weak State, and we waxed chivalrous. One 
leading member of the Conservative Party even threatened 
the French from the front Opposition bench with the 
Siamese Fleet, which he described as a compact and 
serviceable little squadron. We made no doubt that the 
French were making excessive claims, but we avowedly 
limited our action to precautions for the protection of 
British subjects and property at Bangkok, the capital of 
Siam situated on the river Menam. 


J 3 

For this purpose certain ships of the British Navy 
were sent to Siamese waters. The cruisers lay outside 
the mouth of the Menam; one gunboat, the Linnet, was 
sent up the river to lie at Bangkok and be absolutely on 
the spot to protect British lives and property in case of 
disorder. The French had sent ships of the French Navy 
to put pressure on Siam to yield to their territorial claims 
on the frontier. For this purpose the French declared 
a “pacific blockade” of Siam, and their ships of war drew 
the line of blockade outside the mouth of the Menam. 

The British view was that there is no such thing as a 
“pacific blockade” and that we could not recognize what 
had no existence in international law. We could only 
recognize a “blockade” if it were an act of war. Contro- 
versy at once arose on this point. Then came two inci- 
dents that, for twenty-four hours, were thought to make 
war between Great Britain and France inevitable. 

A telegram was received saying that one of the French 
cruisers blockading the mouth of the Menam had turned 
its guns on a British cruiser at anchor, while steaming 
past it. This was a gross naval insult that would in naval 
etiquette have justified the captain of the British ship in 
firing on the French ship. The gesture of the French 
captain, though it was not replied to at the moment by 
opening fire, could not be ignored. An apology at least 
must be demanded, and, as the French act was apparently 
deliberate and intentional, it was presumed that an apol- 
ogy would not be forthcoming. 

About the same time another telegram arrived saying 
that the French Admiral had ordered the Linnet to leave 
Bangkok. The Linnet, having been sent to Bangkok to 
protect British lives and property in case of disorder and 
the prospect of trouble being now more imminent than 


ever, we could not think of moving her. Nor, in any 
case, could she be ordered about by French naval officers. 
Lord Rosebery at once sent a telegram saying that the 
Linnet must stay at Bangkok. For some twenty-four 
hours it was supposed that the French had deliberately 
challenged us and that war was inevitable. It was re- 
ported in the Foreign Office that the telegrams had been 
shown to the German Emperor, was was then visiting 
Queen Victoria on his yacht at Cowes, and that he had 
expressed with evident satisfaction the opinion that there 
was no way out of the incident but war . 1 So for some 
hours the Foreign Office remained in a state of tense ex- 
pectation. Presently came two more telegrams : one to 
say that the French Admiral had not ordered the Linnet 
to leave Bangkok, but had requested that, as he was estab- 
lishing a line of blockade, the Linnet should either stay 
at Bangkok or come outside to avoid crossing the French 
line and thereby breaking the blockade. This put the 
Linnet incident in a very different light. We had not 
recognized the blockade, and might refuse to comply with 
the French Admiral’s request; but, as we wanted the 
Linnet to remain at Bangkok, we had no present inten- 
tion or need to use her to defy the French blockade. 

Another telegram arrived saying that the French 
Admiral, without waiting for any demand from us, had 
sent the captain of the French cruiser to apologize to 
the British captain for the unprovoked breach of correct 
naval conduct. Before there was time for legal authori- 
ties to report fully on the question of “pacific blockade,” 
or for the controversy thereon to be developed, the 
Siamese conceded the French demands, the “pacific block- 

'It must not be assumed, however, that his attitude was unfriendly on the 
contrary, if the current-reports were true, he seemed disposed to give German 
support to British action. 


ade” disappeared, and the whole matter ceased to have 
any importance. 

It seems incredible that two great European nations 
should have become nearly involved in war about any- 
thing so ephemeral. The incident remained in my mind 
as an illustration of the danger of a state of ill-will be- 
tween nations. It provided also another point for reflec- 
tion. There were some murmurs, as there always were, 
when such incidents occurred under a Liberal Govern- 
ment, that the British Government had not shown proper 
firmness and spirit. It was told me that one of the most 
influential men on the Unionist side had said that it was 
evident that war between ourselves and France must come, 
and that it would be better to have it at once. I remember 
at the time feeling strongly, but by instinct rather than 
reflection, that deliberately to precipitate the waste and 
suffering of war before it became clearly inevitable was 
not only unsound policy, but a crime; it was indeed an 
act likely to bring unforeseen retribution. Further expe- 
rience and reflection upon the complexity and uncer- 
tainty of human affairs have made me question whether 
any human brain can so calculate the long chain of con- 
sequences as to render it safe for anyone to make unneces- 
sary war. Bismarck may appear an exception; whether 
he was really or only apparently an exception may be con- 
sidered when we come to the events of 1914. Far-seeing 
men may be able to calculate the direct consequences of 
a public act or policy; the indirect consequences are be- 
yond human calculation; and it is the indirect conse- 
quences that in the long run are most important. A pub- 
lic man must have opinions and form decisions. He must 
act, and sometimes without delay; but when it comes to 
adopting unscrupulous means to be justified by the ends 



in view, some of the most brilliant public intellects have 
failed from not sufficiently remembering that they are 
fallible. What the indirect consequences would have 
been if Great Britain and France had gone to war in 1893 
is a very interesting subject for speculation. Whole books 
might be written about it, but none of the conclusions 
would be convincing enough to anyone but their author 
to make the speculation profitable. 

It was not only about Siam that we had friction with 
France. There were constant disputes and incidents in 
West Africa, besides a perpetual dispute about what we 
called the Treaty Shore and the French called the French 
Shore in Newfoundland. The national interests involved 
on the French side in Newfoundland were very slight, 
but the controversy was time-honoured — dating from the 
Treaty of Utrecht — and an incident might at any moment 
arise that would involve sovereign rights on one side and 
be made a point of honour on the other. The British 
occupation of Egypt was a perpetual exasperation to the 
French, and their attitude with regard to it a constant 
irritant to us. 

It was in West Africa that incidents most frequently 
occurred. British officials explored the country and 
made treaties with native chiefs on which we based our 
rights. French officials would overlap ours in their ex- 
plorations and treaties; hence claims and counter-claims 
and confusion. It was sometimes possible to argue that 
a treaty had been made with a native chief who was not 
independent but subordinate, and that the treaty was 
therefore valueless; it may even have happened that an 
independent chief was ready for a consideration to make 
a treaty both with a British and a French official pro- 
vided one came after the other. At any rate, one morning 


in March 1895 there came to the Foreign Office news of 
what were regarded as very unwarranted and provocative 
encroachments in West Africa. This sort of thing had 
been going on for some time, and it was always possible 
that someone in the House of Commons would question 
me about it. Though the leaders of the Opposition gave 
general support to the Liberal Government in foreign 
policy, there were always free-lances who used any report 
of foreign aggression to criticize a Liberal Government; 
there were also enthusiasts for Imperial expansion, partic- 
ularly in Africa, who were genuinely anxious about 
French aggression or encroachment. The Foreign 
Office vote was to be taken in the House of Commons 
that afternoon and evening. I went to Lord Kimberley, 
who had come to the Foreign Office when Lord Rosebery 
became Prime Minister in 1894; I told Lord Kimberley 
that the question of French proceedings in West Africa 
might be raised, and asked for his instructions as to what I 
should say in view of the latest and very provoking reports. 

In conversation, or perhaps it would be more accurate 
to say in talk, Lord Kimberley was the most copious of 
men. He had a great store of knowledge of books and 
experience of men and affairs, including affairs incidental 
to the life of a country squire; he had much to say of all 
these matters, and when the Under-Secretary went to 
ask him to read and approve drafts of answers to ques- 
tions that were to be asked in the House of Commons in a 
quarter of an hour’s time, it was sometimes embarrassing 
that he would embark on an account of the ravages 
wrought among trees by a great gale in Norfolk; though 
the weather and the trees were topics not uncongenial to 
the Under-Secretary himself. On paper, and when ad- 
dressing himself to a point to be decided, Lord Kimberley 



was admirable — concise, definite, and clear. As draft 
answers to questions were presented to him he would 
read each, consider it rapidly but thoroughly, and initial 
the draft either as it stood or with amendment in firm, 
distinct handwriting. He was devoted to the work of his 
office, absolutely free from all egotism in transacting it, 
a chief who would trust and never throw over or let down 
a subordinate. On this occasion, after settling the draft 
answers to questions on the order paper for the day in 
the House of Commons, he considered the hypothetical 
point I had put to him. What was I to say if the ques- 
tion of French encroachments in West Africa was raised 
in the House of Commons? “You must do the best you 
can,” he said, “but I think you should use pretty firm lan- 
guage.” West Africa was not mentioned in the debate 
that evening, but I was pressed on the question of the Nile 
Valley and French designs thereon. The Soudan was 
still in the hands of the Khalifa. The claim of Egypt to 
it, however, had never been abandoned, though, since the 
overthrow of Egyptian rule by the Mahdi in 1886, it was 
clear that the Soudan would never be reconquered by 
Egypt again without British assistance, nor would the 
Soudanese again tolerate the purely Egyptian rule against 
which they had revolted. It was, at any rate, evident 
that no other Power except Egypt or someone acting on 
behalf of Egypt had any claim whatever to the Soudan 
and the Nile Valley. 

There were vague rumours that a French expedition 
was on its way to that region, and it was on this that I 
was pressed. We felt sure no French expedition was on 
the way to the Nile, in which belief we were quite justi- 
fied, for the Marchand expedition, as was ascertained 
later on, did not start while we were in office. There 



was, therefore, time to give France full warning of our 
view without putting her in a position of having to re- 
treat or to abandon anything that she had yet done; it 
was impossible to provide an incident on the spot, for 
there were neither French nor British in the Soudan. 
Some such thoughts as these worked in my mind on the 
Treasury bench as I considered what I should say. 
The French would really be going far out of their way if 
they came right across Africa to the Upper Nile, and I 
felt some heat at the suggestion thrown out in the course 
of debate that the French might come into the Nile Val- 
ley. Whatever language I had thought of using about 
West Africa, where there were conflicting claims and 
action, and where both British and French officials were 
active, was not suitable to the question of the Nile Valley. 
I therefore transferred to the subject of the Nile the firm- 
ness I had been authorized to show about competing 
claims in West Africa, and throughout, as carefully as the 
brief time and the obligation to give at any rate one ear 
to the speeches of others would allow, the words that I 
should use. Then I got up and did the best I could, being 
very careful to associate Egypt with Great Britain in any 
claim to the Soudan . 1 

The next day there was a row in Paris, and (so I under- 
stood) in Downing Street. Some members of the Cabi- 
net, opposed to any expansion whatever in Africa and re- 
garding even the occupation of Egypt as a regrettable 
commitment, disapproved of my speech; others, includ- 
ing, I gathered, Lord Rosebery, the Prime Minister, and 

1 House of Commons, March 28, 1895: “The advance of a French Expedition 
under secret instructions right from the other side of Africa into a territory- 
over which our claims have been known for so long would be not merely an 
inconsistent and unexpected act, but it must be perfectly well known to the 
French Government that it would be an unfriendly act and would be so 
viewed by England.” 


Lord Kimberley, maintained that what I had said was 
defensible and salutary. Fortunately, for the purpose of 
composing this difference of opinion, the word “Egypt,” 
which I had so carefully associated with Great Britain, 
had accidentally been omitted in the report of my speech. 
On this omission I gather that those who disapproved of 
the speech fastened. The way was then open to compro- 
mise. Those who thought that the speech should be ap- 
proved agreed that the word “Egypt” should be inserted, 
and on this condition the others gave their consent to the 
speech being allowed to stand. The question of political 
rights and titles in the Soudan is now the subject of acute 
controversy with Egypt. Amid all political and juridical 
arguments, one fact stands out hard and solid, which is 
that without British military organization, British effort 
and firm diplomacy, Egypt would have no hand in the 
Soudan at all to-day. 

The decision reached me by special messenger at my cot- 
tage at Hampshire, where I had gone to prune my roses at 
the week-end. I readily agreed to the insertion of a word 
that I had been careful to use; but the incident had its 
personal inconvenience for me. I find in the little jour- 
nal that I kept of visits at the cottage an entry for March 
30 and 31, 1895: “Pruning Sunday. Disturbed by work, 
and have to go up on Sunday evening.” A few years later, 
when Lord Kitchener had taken Khartoum and come upon 
the Marchand expedition and the French flag, I saw my 
speech appear like a State Paper in the documents pub- 
lished in the controversy that arose. As things turned 
out, the speech must have proved very useful, when I was 
out of office, to the Government that succeeded Lord 
Rosebery; but, looking back, I ask myself whether it may 
not have provoked the Marchand expedition; whether, if 


nothing had been said here, the French would ever have 
sent that expedition at all. If so, the speech would have 
been better left unspoken. If the Marchand expedition 
had already been determined upon in Paris, then the 
speech was not only defensible but valuable, and almost 
essential for defining in advance a position that the British 
Government would, if challenged, insist on maintaining 
at all costs. It is necessary to have a clear opinion at the 
time as to what is right, and to act upon it, but when an 
affair is over and one’s own part is done, it is more inter- 
esting to put what is past to question in one’s own mind 
and to review it, than simply to defend it without ques- 
tion, as if one were no wiser after the event than before. 

On another matter that caused trouble with France 
at the time I will not dwell at length. King Leopold 
had occupied a claimed territory in the Upper Nile region 
that we held did not belong to the Congo State. We made 
an agreement to regularize his occupation, but to secure to 
us the reversion of this non-Congo territory later on. The 
agreement also gave us a wayleave for a railway passing 
behind German East Africa to connect railways from 
South Africa with Uganda and thus to make a Cape-to- 
Cairo Railway practicable. 

The Germans at once protested that this was contrary 
to a previous agreement between our Government and 
theirs, safeguarding them against a railway in this region 
that might prejudice railways in German territory. In- 
vestigation in the Foreign Office showed that this German 
protest was well founded : there was such an agreement, 
and it had been overlooked. This part, therefore, of the 
arrangement with King Leopold was at once withdrawn. 

The French, claiming an interest in the Congo under 
a Franco-Belgian or Congo agreement giving France a 



contingent right of pre-emption to the Congo State de- 
clared our agreement “nulle et non avenue” as far as they 
were concerned. This contention we did not admit, as 
we held that the territory in the Nile region with which 
the agreement dealt did not belong to the Congo State 
at all. The agreement was certainly not fortunate at its 
birth, but it worked, and after the death of King Leopold 
it settled these troublesome matters without friction with 
Belgium and with France, with whom the Entente of 
1904 had smoothed away all these causes of dispute. 

Two other transactions towards the end of this period 
must be recalled, which must have had their effect on 
future policy. 

We made an agreement with Japan by which we gave 
up all those rights of jurisdiction over our British sub- 
jects in Japan that were still retained by European and 
American Governments over their own subjects in Orien- 
tal countries. It has sometimes been represented that in 
this negotiation Japan got the better of us and exacted 
from us more than we intended to concede. This was not 
so: we had made up our minds that the time had come 
when dealings with Japan must be put on the same equal 
terms as exist between nations of European origin; only 
so would cordial political and successful commercial rela- 
tions be preserved. We were the first country to nego- 
tiate such an agreement with Japan, and we were pre- 
pared to make it complete and to put our relations with 
Japan on the same footing as those with other nations. 

Another step was also taken towards friendly relations 
with Japan, though it was one that arose out of circum- 
stances not of our making, and was not foreseen or planned 
by us. 

Japan had a short and successful war with China; no 


other Power took part or interfered while hostilities were 
in progress; but after they were over France, Germany, 
and Russia invited us to join in an intimation to Japan 
that she would not be allowed to take all the fruits of 
victory that she claimed. Lord Kimberley refused to 
join in putting pressure on Japan; the three other Powers 
acted without us and Japan had to give way to diplomatic 
force tnajeure. 

I do not believe that Lord Kimberley had any ulterior 
motive in the decision he took not to interfere. We did 
not consider that British interests required us to join in 
this interference with Japan’s claims; the threat to her 
by the European Powers appeared harsh and uncalled 
for, and it was repugnant to us to join in it. This de- 
cided us to stand aside; there was certainly no thought in 
our minds then of a future alliance with Japan. We 
were moved simply by the feeling of the moment to stand 
aside from action that seemed to us disagreeably harsh 
and in which British interests did not require us to par- 
ticipate. Japan no doubt resented the interference of the 
European Powers, and resented it still more when Russia, 
not long afterwards, occupied Port Arthur herself and 
Germany exacted the concession of Shantung as compen- 
sation for the murder of a missionary. The very Powers 
who had upheld against Japan the principle of the in- 
tegrity of China proceeded to violate it themselves. The 
proceedings could not have been made more pleasant to 
Japan when the British Government, to counteract the 
presence of Russia at Port Arthur, secured from China 
the port of Wei-Hai-Wei, though, so far as I am aware, 
the concession of Wei-Hai-Wei was made willingly by 
China and deemed by her to be in her own interest after 
the Russian occupation of Port Arthur. Japan was now 



thus confronted with the establishment of three new Euro- 
pean bases opposite her own shores, after having been 
forcibly prevented from taking one for herself. The in- 
tegrity of China was to be a principle sacred against 
Japan, but not against European Powers, who had pro- 
claimed it after Japan’s victory over China. 

The action of Great Britain in refusing to join in the 
coercion of Japan was naturally much appreciated by 
the Japanese. The direct consequence of the coercive ac- 
tion of France, Germany, and Russia upon Japan after 
the Japanese war with China was that Japan retired with- 
out the fruits of victory, which she much wished for : the 
indirect consequences were the Russian occupation of 
Port Arthur, followed by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance 
and the war between Russia and Japan. What the further 
indirect consequences were of that war and that alliance 
may be left to those who have sufficient imagination to 
divine. It would be interesting to know how much 
the statesmen at Berlin, Paris and St. Petersburg saw of 
• the future consequences of their action, when in 1895 they 
decided on joint action to restrain Japan. I am sure that 
British Ministers at the time did not look beyond the 
moment. Probably it is seldom that public men see much 
beyond direct consequences. Even in looking back with 
full knowledge of the event it is impossible to trace the 
indirect consequences of a past act beyond the earlier 
stages : after that they are merged in the great movement 
of consequences of other acts; and the mind, in endeavour- 
ing to trace them, loses itself as it does in the attempt to 
conceive infinity. Even historians with knowledge of the 
event, and with the materials before them on which to 
form a judgment, see but a little way into the causes and 
consequences of the great events of history. 




Training in Office — Life in London — Town Life and Country Life — 
The Fishing Cottage and Its Uses — An Early Flitting — Rest and 
Recreation — True Luxury — A Depressing Contrast — Methods of 
Work and Public Speaking — Leaving the Foreign Office — An 
Unfulfilled Intention. 

I HAVE now dealt with the episodes of work in the 
Foreign Office during the two years and ten months 
from August 1892 to June 1895 during which I was 
Under-Secretary. The first years of office are necessarily 
very important in the life of a young man. He undergoes 
steady training in industry and despatch; he learns how 
to brace his mind to plough through the stiffest and least 
attractive material, to break up the most intractable clod; 
his memory is practised in storing things in an orderly 
way in his head so that each is out of the way when not 
wanted, and yet can be found at once when required. The 
habit of quickly arriving at facile conclusions is checked; 
for he is brought in contact with limitations and difficul- 
ties, which are encountered inside a public office and were 
not apparent when he was outside; he finds the use of his 
own qualities, he is made aware of the inconvenience, per- 
haps the danger, of his defects. The whole experience 
of office life is new to him and has its effects not only on 
his public but on his private life. It may not be out of 
place here to say something of this. 



I had been elected to Parliament in 1885. My wife 
and I took a small furnished house in London for the 
Session of 1886. We had neither of us yet made much 
trial of town life, and the first spring did not pass without 
our becoming aware that it was intensely distasteful to 
us. The advantages, intellectual and social, of town life 
are obvious. To many people the very external circum- 
stances and surroundings of this life become not only 
agreeable, but essential. Someone has told me the story 
of the town-lover, who, after a short trial of a quiet 
country retreat, left it because he could not endure the 
“tingling silence.” To the lover of the country, its sights 
and sounds, its quiet and its pursuits, become as essential, 
as much part of his being as the advantages and circum- 
stances of town life are to the lover of the town. It is as if 
there were two different atmospheres ; some, perhaps most 
people, are so constituted that they can enjoy or tolerate 
either; there are some who feel they can breathe in the 
one and not in the other. If to an incompatibility of habit 
and temperament with town life, there be added exile 
from the home, not only of manhood but of boyhood, with 
all its familiar rooms and furniture and surroundings and 
interests, it is inevitable that town life must be very un- 
congenial. This I knew well enough by 1892, and, 
realizing that the ties of office must intensify the exile, I 
entered it without any elation; indeed with depression. 
It would be untrue to imply that the new position brought 
no interest or excitement; it brought both, but without 
cancelling the drawback. 

A permanent house in London was now necessary, and 
the salary as Under-Secretary was sufficient to enable us 
to take on lease a house in Grosvenor Road which we 


could furnish and where we could have furniture of our 
own choosing, while still keeping the country home avail- 
able for such times as I could get there. But Northum- 
berland was too far for week-end journeys, and already in 
1890 we had put up a small bungalow in Hampshire, 
which could be shut up in the week and opened at week- 
ends. There I had one rod on a fishing on the Itchen, 
and the bungalow, or cottage, as we called it, was orig- 
inally designed as a fishing cottage only. In the stress 
of office it became a sanctuary. The Session of 1893 was 
a strenuous one, Parliament met as usual early in the 
year; there were, I think, five days’ holiday only at Easter, 
including Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Monday; 
the House of Commons did not adjourn till well on in 
September; it met again in October, and the Session lasted 
over Christmas and the New Year into January 1894. 
The Government majority was at most only forty, includ- 
ing over eighty Irish Nationalists; it was incumbent on 
all supporters of the Government to attend assiduously; 
the Irish did their part with that discipline and thorough- 
ness with which the party always carried out any policy 
or arrangement upon which they had entered in the House 
of Commons, and they did it equally well, whether it 
was Irish Home Rule or an English measure like the 
Parish Councils Bill, in which they had no interest, that 
was under discussion. Liberal M.P.’s had to do equally 
well, and Under-Secretaries attended during the whole 
of every sitting, seldom or never venturing to leave the 
House for dinner. They had rooms in the lower regions; 
my own room had quite sufficient accommodation, and 
was comfortable enough, but it was like living in a cellar. 
The stream of Foreign Office boxes gave me compara- 



tively little time to listen to debates. In these days the 
House of Commons had its short sitting on Wednesday; 
there was the normal late sitting on Friday evening, and 
no leaving London till Saturday. 

The spring and summer of 1893 were unusually warm 
and fine. Every Saturday morning we left Grosvenor 
Road about half-past five in the early morning. We 
had no baggage, and at that hour there were no hansom 
cabs, so we walked across Lambeth Bridge, the river 
and houses presenting the same aspect of calm and quiet 
that inspired Wordsworth’s “sonnet on Westminster 
Bridge.” Thence our way went past St. Thomas’s Hos- 
pital and along the street that then led to the entrance 
to Waterloo. This street we called Wood Street; at that 
early hour it was deserted, the houses shut, the only sound 
in it was the vigorous song of a thrush in a cage that hung 
outside one of the houses. The thrush was always singing 
at that hour, and the lines 

“At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears, 

Hangs a thrush that sings loud,” 

being familiar to us, we always spoke of the street as 
Wood Street, though that was not its real name. From 
this street the way led through the most unsavoury tunnel 
to the old Waterloo Station, and so we got away by the 
6 o’clock train from Waterloo and to the Hampshire 
cottage soon after 8 o’clock, in time for breakfast. 

The start from London each Saturday morning was 
one of rapture of anticipated pleasure : 

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 

But to be young was very heaven,” 


and week after week the Saturday and Sunday fulfilled 
anticipations. On Saturday, in hot summer weather, I 
would fish till about two o’clock, and again from seven 
to nine o’clock in the evening. Sunday was not a fishing 
day then on that part of the 7 tchen, and we spent it reading 
great or refreshing books, going long walks in some of 
the most beautiful country in all the south of England, 
watching birds, much in the spirit of Keats’s Sonnet, “To 
one who had been long in city pent,” except that there 
was no fatigue. The cottage, which had sprung into 
existence for the sake of the fishing, became much more 
than a fishing cottage and more even than a week-end 
retreat from London. 

It revealed a peculiarly happy way of life. For twenty- 
five years it was tended with faithful and devoted care 
by one woman, and after her death in 1915 by her sister. 
They lived together in a cottage some few hundred yards 
away. There they had their own surroundings, garden 
and friends. Service for us did not mean absence from 
home for them ; when we were at the cottage we wanted 
rest, books, the enjoyment of the beauty of the country, 
and opportunity to watch outdoor life. For this we 
wanted to be alone, and to have only the food and attend- 
ance that were really required for comfort. Work, 
duties, social intercourse, were for London. Life at the 
cottage suggested a definition of luxury — that of having 
everything that we did want and nothing that we did not 
want. It seemed to us that the omission of the second 
part of this definition made the failure of so much that 
is thought to be luxurious : by accident we had come upon 
true and exquisite luxury. The difficulty was to enjoy it 
in moderation: when I was in office the compulsion of 
official work enforced moderation; when we were free 


we had to determine how many days we could from time 
to time spend with a good conscience at the cottage. 1 
Some Foreign Office papers there might be to read, but 
the Foreign Office work went on irrespective of whether 
the Parliamentary Under-Secretary was there or not, and 
there was no burden of responsibility on me. Then, every 
Monday morning, we went back to London, I to spend 
the morning at the Foreign Office and the rest of the day 
after luncheon in the cellar-room under the House of 
Commons, in which I could hear the unpleasant sounds, 
when the obstruction in the House was very rampant and 
demonstrative, as it frequently was then, or when, as 
sometimes happened, there was open disorder in the 
House. Party feeling ran high in those days. We on the 
Liberal side felt we were right, that Unionist Government 
in Ireland had failed, and would continue to fail, that 
till there was Home Rule there would be no peace, and 
Ireland would be a source of perpetual weakness to us 
and a misery to herself. We had a parliamentary ma- 
jority, which made any other policy than Home Rule 
impossible, and we considered ourselves entitled to pursue 
it. The Unionist Opposition disbelieved in Home Rule 
and hated it, and probably thought that we were straining 
the Constitution in attempting to pass so large a measure 
with so small a parliamentary majority, indeed without a 
British majority at all. 

In time the contrast between the life that I loved and 
the life that I led for five days every week affected my 

I did the work of Parliamentary Under-Secretary to 
the best of my ability. I got up thoroughly every subject 

* The cottage was accidentally burnt, in January 1923, and after 1918 the 
failure of sight had interfered with much of the enjoyment of reading and 
outdoor pursuits. 

Portrait by Sandys 



of which I had notice that I was to be questioned or that 
it was to be raised in the House; and I read all that 
went on in the Foreign Office so carefully that I could 
deal with matters that might be brought up without notice 
on the Foreign Office vote. In fact, whenever foreign 
affairs were to come up in the House I went there much 
better equipped to pass an examination than I had ever 
been at school or university. But there was no pleasure 
to me in the House of Commons work. I could express 
clearly to others what I had previously made clear to 
my own mind, but beyond that there was no natural gift 
for speaking. I never had a peroration; I could neither 
compose one nor repeat it by heart, if I had been able to 
compose it; and yet I had not the art of stopping effec- 
tively without a peroration, as Samuel Butler says Handel 
does in his music. “When Handel means stopping he 
stops as a horse stops, with little, if any, peroration” (I 
quote from memory). Early in 1894 Mr Gladstone 
retired; I was personally devoted to Lord Rosebery, who 
succeeded him, and was particularly in agreement with 
him on Imperial matters, and his succession as Prime 
Minister had my warm support and placed me under 
a special obligation to work for his Government. By 
extraordinary ill fortune Lord Rosebery had a severe 
and most depressing attack of influenza in the short time 
he was Prime Minister, and I became increasingly aware 
that, with the great figure of Mr. Gladstone retired, with 
the unifying influence of his authority and prestige 
removed, the Liberal Party, with its differing shades of 
opinion, personal and political, was for the present no 
instrument fit for achieving great things. A sense of the 
futility of it all now added to the depression caused by 
party bitterness and by town life and exile from home. 


In June 1895 the Government of Lord Rosebery was 
defeated in a division on the War Office vote in the House 
of Commons and resigned. I was set free, and left office 
with the expectation and the intention of never return- 
ing to it. 

Inside the Foreign Office I had found the personnel 
pleasant, and I left it with a grateful sense of their kind- 
ness and of the experience gained there. I had from 
the first taken the view that we must take over British 
East Africa and Uganda, and the Cabinet had eventually 
come to the same conclusion. For the rest, I had been 
content to follow and to understand without attempting 
to influence policy. The general impression left of our 
position in the world was not comfortable; we relied on 
German support in Egypt, and received it; but we never 
could be sure when some price for that support might 
not be exacted. At any moment we were liable to have 
a serious difference with France or Russia, and it was 
evident that these differences were not unwelcome at 
Berlin and to German diplomacy. But I certainly 
had no idea of a change of policy, and I do not think 
that my chiefs contemplated anything of the kind. 

In the light of after-events, the whole policy of these 
years from 1886 to 1904 may be criticized as having 
played into the hands of Germany. I am not concerned 
to examine that criticism here. The Liberal tenure of 
the Foreign Office from August 1892 to June 1895 was 
but a short period of the time. Mr. Gladstone’s Govern- 
ment continued the policy of Lord Salisbury as they found 
it; when Lord Salisbury returned to the Foreign Office 
in 1895 he saw no more reason to change that policy than 
Lord Rosebery or Lord Kimberley had done; he con- 
tinued it. Indeed, as will presently appear, his Govern- 


ment went farther on the road of complaisance and 
advance to Germany than before. The time to review 
this policy will be when the period — nine years later — 
is reached in which the Government of which Lord 
Lansdowne was Foreign Secretary made at last a new 




Two Tendencies of these Years — The Strain with France — Increasing 
Difficulties with Germany — A New Situation in the Far East — 
The Russians at Port Arthur — Chamberlain’s “Long Spoon” 
Speech — The Fashoda Incident — Lieut. Marchand’s Gallantry — 
Chamberlain’s Overture to Germany — A German Opportunity and 
its Rejection — A Secret Agreement — The South African War — 
Continental Hostility — Beginning of the German Big Fleet — The 
Anglo-Japanese Alliance — The Anglo-French Agreement — Reasons 
for Welcoming it — German Suspicions — Lord Rosebery’s View — 
The Dogger Bank Incident — The Hard Case of Russia — The 
Pleasures of Opposition — Railway Work — The Chairmanship of 
the North-Eastern Railway. 

T EN years and a half were now to pass before 
I entered the Foreign Office again. After I 
returned to it I heard incidentally in conversa- 
tion with officials in the office, some interesting comments 
and information upon some of the episodes in foreign 
politics, that happened in this period. I was, however, 
when Secretary of State, much too hard pressed by current 
work to have leisure to look up old papers and read the 
records in the Foreign Office of what had been done 
while I was in Opposition; and, since I was not respon- 
sible during these years, I have purposely refrained, in 
preparing this book, from asking for documents relating 
to them. I can therefore write of the events of this period 

only as anyone may do who did not participate in them 




and knew them only by the Press and other public sources 
of information. We all know what happened and what 
was done; we do not know, or know only in part, how 
things happened and why they were done by those who 
did them. Those who are outside see the result; the real 
motive and the full thought can be told only by those 
who decide and execute policy. 

It is, however, necessary to give some account of the 
events in foreign affairs of this period, for during it the 
foreign policy of Great Britain slowly took another direc- 
tion; bent thither, I judge, rather by the persistent pres- 
sure of circumstances than by any definite plan or 
initiative of Lord Salisbury. It was not till after his 
retirement in 1902 that any change of direction was 
apparent; indeed, in November 1899 there was an 
attempt, manifested by a speech of Mr. Chamberlain’s, 
to which reference will be made presently, to push 
British policy in the direction of closer relations with 
Germany, which was not the direction subsequently taken. 

What, then, do we see in the course of events after June 
1895? In the main we see two tendencies. One is that 
the strain of our relations with France and Russia is in- 
tensified. The Russian occupation of Port Arthur, the 
Anglo- Japanese Alliance, the Russo-Japanese War and 
the incidents consequent upon it illustrate what I mean 
as regards Russia. Lord Kitchener’s advance into the 
Soudan, his discovery there of the French expedition of 
Lieutenant Marchand at Fashoda, and the controversy 
thereon with France illustrate what is meant with regard 
to France. Things were constantly happening that 
brought us nearer to an open breach with France or with 

The other tendency was for Anglo-German relations 



to become stiffen What I have called the rough side 
of German friendship became more rough. A brief ac- 
count of leading events will show these two tendencies 
at work. 

In the first months of Lord Salisbury’s Government, in 
which Mr. Chamberlain took the Colonial Office, there 
occurred the Jameson Raid upon the Transvaal. When 
all the facts were known many people at home felt in- 
dignant that an act of gross aggression should have been 
perpetrated by any British persons or organized on British 
territory; they were disgusted by the hollow pretext, put 
forward by those who defended it as necessary to protect 
women and children in Johannesburg: to everybody the 
collapse of the Raid showed that it was an act of folly. 
We could not, therefore, be surprised that the raid was 
condemned by foreign opinion, nor could we justly resent 
that condemnation. But why should the German Em- 
peror make it his business, and his alone, to appear as the 
friend and even the champion of President Kruger? The 
German Emperor’s telegram to President Kruger did un- 
doubtedly cause both surprise and resentment in Britain. 
It passed, however, without incident, for the raid had 
put Britain clearly in the wrong and President Kruger 
in the right, and our business was to clear up the mess as 
best we could by legal prosecution of the chief actors in 
the Raid and by parliamentary enquiry into the responsi- 
bility for it. It is not necessary to pursue the matter fur- 
ther, but the German Emperor’s telegram, though it made 
no diplomatic “incident,” had its effect on British minds. 
Suspicion grew, later on, that Germany was encouraging 
President Kruger in order to make trouble for Britain 
in South Africa, and, though the dramatic demonstration 
of the German Emperor’s telegram may not have initiated 



this suspicion, the recollection of the telegram strength- 
ened it in later and more dangerous years. 

Another event, already glanced at, that had much more 
immediate impact and repercussion on foreign policy was 
the Russian occupation of Port Arthur. This caused a 
serious potential alteration of the naval position in the Far 
East. Russia, it is true, had already a port at Vladivostok, 
but it was frozen in winter. Port Arthur, more sheltered 
and farther to the south, was a port open all the year and 
presumably capable of being made a permanent and for- 
midable naval base. The Russian occupation of it was 
therefore a matter of serious concern in its relation to the 
British naval position in the Far East. The British Gov- 
ernment negotiated with the Chinese to lease Wei-Hai- 
Wei as a counterpoise to the Russian move, the object 
no doubt being to have a base in the north of China, where 
a British naval force could be stationed to control any 
naval force that Russia might base upon Port Arthur. 
Even so, however, the relative naval position in the Far 
East was felt to be altered to our disadvantage, and there 
was much criticism of Lord Salisbury’s Government, to 
which some members of that Government were no doubt 
sensitive. The Russian method of procedure had also 
caused resentment. British ships had been on a visit to 
Port Arthur; the Russian Government had, in a friendly 
manner, pointed out that the presence of British ships of 
war in that region was a source of uneasiness. Lord Salis- 
bury, in a friendly spirit, had let the British vessels de- 
part. The Russians then went to Port Arthur themselves, 
not on a visit, but on a long lease. 

This result was very provoking; criticism at home was 
sharp, the Russian methods were exasperating. The feel- 
ing aroused found its strongest expression in a speech of 


Mr. Chamberlain’s. This was not the first time that Mr. 
Chamberlain had occasion to put a foot down about 
Russia. In a speech that I heard at the Eighty Club early 
in 1885 he had referred to the Penjdeh incident. He was 
then the leader of what were considered extreme Radicals, 
and the speech was devoted to domestic affairs; he was 
supposed by his Conservative opponents to be a Little 
Englander, in favour of a weak and retiring policy 
abroad. There was at the time sharp friction with Russia 
over the Penjdeh incident on the Afghan frontier and 
Mr. Chamberlain spoke of it in a very firm manner, 
though that was not then the role expected of him. Not 
more than ten years later he was not only a leading mem- 
ber of a Unionist Government, but looked up to as the 
great Imperialist in British politics. There was no ques- 
tion, when he spoke, of going to war about Port Arthur; 
the Russian occupation was an accomplished fact, but 
Mr. Chamberlain expressed the resentment felt by the 
comment that “he who sups with the devil must have a 
long spoon.” A notable milestone, indeed, on the road 
to war with Russia. 

British relations with France were once more heated 
to the point of danger by the Fashoda affair. Soon after 
the Unionist Government came into power it was decided 
to reconquer the Soudan. The operation was completely 
successful, and Khartoum was occupied in September 
1898. In advancing farther up the Nile, Lord Kitchener 
came upon a French expedition that had crossed Africa 
from the west, and, after a very bold and adventurous 
journey, had established itself and the French flag at 
Fashoda. The situation was at once acute. The leader 
of the French expedition, Lieutenant Marchand, with his 
gallant but small party, was in no position to offer serious 



resistance to Lord Kitchener’s army; he was far away 
from any touch or communication with French territory. 
Indeed, till Lord Kitchener opened up the Soudan by his 
advance it is doubtful whether the French Government 
knew what had become of the Marchand expedition or 
where it was. But, being there with the flag, Lieutenant 
Marchand could not yield except to force. If Lord 
Kitchener used force there was an act of war between 
Britain and France. The facts were disclosed to the 
world, and the men on the spot waited for their respective 
Governments to decide what should be done. The diplo- 
matic contest began, and public opinion and the Press 
on both sides were excited. It was impossible for Britain 
to admit any foreign claim to the Nile Valley, and the 
Government could say only one thing, viz. that the French 
expedition must withdraw. 

We had given ample warning of our claims (here my 
speech of 1895 was quoted), and the French expedition 
was a wanton challenge to them, for France had really 
no interest of her own to protect in the Nile Valley. On 
the other hand, France did not admit our claim, and 
French honour was involved. The situation did not admit 
of compromise; it could not be settled on paper; one side 
or other had to give way. For a time there was an angry 
diplomatic impasse. Happily, there were aspects of the 
situation that were soothing and some which irresistibly 
suggested an under-sense of humour. There are situa- 
tions in which two people are very earnest and serious 
and yet in which each knows that, if he were not so deadly 
serious, he would be laughing. The soothing side of the 
Fashoda discovery was that Lieutenant Marchand had 
really performed a remarkably bold and skilful feat of 
African travel and thereby, by common consent, con- 



tributed to the honour of France. The feature that sug- 
gested humour was that the very gallantry of the French 
expedition had placed it in such a perilous and isolated 
situation that Lord Kitchener’s advance was rather a 
rescue than a menace. It was at least doubtful whether 
the French expedition could have survived against the 
Khalifa had Lord Kitchener not disposed of the Khalifa 
in time; and, now that the Khalifa was gone, the route 
opened up by Lord Kitchener was the only one by which 
the French expedition could communicate with France or 
the civilized world. Were French interests or French 
honour really involved in maintaining claims under such 
conditions? Lord Rosebery intervened in the public dis- 
cussion with the remark that, after all, a flag was a very 
portable object. In the end the French expedition re- 
turned to the civilized world with all honour by the way 
that Lord Kitchener’s advance and conquest had made 
practicable. Some of these side-lights relieved the dark 
and threatening aspect of the affair; but it caused much 
bitterness, and it was one more evidence and warning that 
the persistence of ill-will between Britain and France 
would lead to indefinite multiplication of provoking in- 
cidents, and in the long run to war. 

What effect all these affairs had on the mind of Lord 
Salisbury or o: Mr. Balfour and Lord Landsdowne, who 
were afterwards active in giving a new direction to British 
foreign policy, I do not know, but Mr. Chamberlain evi- 
dently came to the conclusion that British policy must be 
given a more definite direction in one way or another. 
The direction :hat he chose was not the one that was even- 
tually taken; ii was not the policy of coming to an under- 
standing with France or Russia about the questions that 
threatened the peace between them and us; it was that of 


an alliance with Germany. He indicated his choice in 
a speech at Leicester (November 30, 1899), of which the 
relevant passage must be quoted : — 

There is something more which I think any far-seeing English 
statesman must have long desired, and that is that we should not remain 
permanently isolated on the continent of Europe, and I think that the 
moment that aspiration was formed it must have appeared evident to 
everybody that the natural alliance is between ourselves and the great 
German Empire. We have had our differences with Germany, we 
have had our quarrels and contentions, we have had our misunderstand- 
ings. I do not conceal that the people of this country have been irri- 
tated, and justly irritated, by circumstances which we are only too glad 
to forget ; but, at the root of things, there has always been a force which 
has necessarily brought us together. What, then, unites nations? 
Interest and sentiment. What interest have we which is contrary to 
the interest of Germany? 

I cannot conceive any point which can arise in the immediate future 
which would bring ourselves and the Germans into antagonism of inter- 
ests. On the contrary, I can see many things which must be a cause 
of anxiety to the statesmen of Europe, but in which our interests are 
clearly the same as the interests of Germany and in which that under- 
standing of which I have spoken in the case of America might, if extended 
to Germany, do more, perhaps, than any combination of arms in order 
to preserve the peace of the world. 

If the union between England and America is a powerful factor in 
the cause of peace, a new Triple Alliance between the Teutonic race 
and the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race will be a still more potent 
influence in the future of the world. I have used the word “alliance,” 
but again I desire to make it clear that to me it seems to matter little 
whether you have an alliance which is committed to paper, or whether 
you have an understanding in the minds of the statesmen of the respective 
countries. An understanding is perhaps better than an alliance, which 
may stereotype arrangements which cannot be regarded as permanent 
in view of the changing circumstances from day to day. 

The whole conception is quite simple and clear. The 
greatest Fleet in the world was the British ; the greatest 


Army was the German. The Fleet and the Army could 
not fight each other ; let there be an alliance between them, 
and they could maintain their own interests and keep 
Europe in order. The speech was a public invitation to 
Germany and a public recommendation of policy to 
Britain and the British Empire. It made a great and 
critical moment, fraught with the greatest possibilities. 
How far Mr. Chamberlain was authorized to speak for 
Lord Salisbury and his colleagues, or how far he had 
consulted them, I cannot say. On this point I heard 
nothing, then or afterwards ; but I was told in the Foreign 
Office in after years that the speech was made after Mr. 
Chamberlain had met the German Emperor and Count 
(afterwards Prince) Bulow, then German Secretary for 
Foreign Affairs, who were on a visit to England. The 
Foreign Office information to me was very definite that 
Mr. Chamberlain’s speech was not made without reason 
to expect that it would meet with response from the Ger- 
man Government. 1 In short, the belief in the Foreign 
Office was that the German Emperor or Count Bulow, 
one or both, had encouraged the idea of a public pro- 
nouncement in England in favour of an Anglo-German 
Alliance. The Foreign Office account to me of the matter 
was, that the suggestion for an alliance with us was 
coldly received in Germany, and that at Paris and St. 
Petersburg German diplomacy turned it to account, repre- 
senting it as an offer that Germany might have accepted 
and had declined. If so, it was very short-sighted of the 
agents of the German Government. There is nothing 
more futile than a momentary diplomatic score off a 
Foreign Minister or his country. It is worse than futile; 
it has later on to be paid for, and it wrecks that confidence 

1 See, on this subject, Asquith’s Genesis of the War, p. 22. 



which is as essential in permanent relations between Gov- 
ernments as it is between great commercial houses. It is 
sometimes suggested that it was British Imperialism that 
brought us into conflict with Germany. Let those who 
think so, either in this country or outside it, take note of 
the fact that the policy of alliance and co-operation with 
Germany was, up to the time of Mr. Chamberlain’s 
speech, desired and advocated by the two most convinced, 
energetic, and influential exponents and promoters of 
British Imperialism. Mr. Chamberlain’s speech and Mr. 
Cecil Rhodes’s will are striking evidence of this. 

At this moment Germany had the opportunity of a 
British Alliance, based on the fact that one had a fleet and 
the other an army; that the fleet and the army could not 
be rivals, but could give invincible support to each other. 

In the light of after-events ought we to wish that the al- 
liance had been made? And what would have been the 
probable course of history if it had been made? It will be 
better to discuss the answers to those questions when the 
after-events have been reviewed. Germany let the sugges- 
tion of an alliance drop; the opportunity passed; Lord 
Salisbury made no change in policy; Germany presently 
embarked on the policy of a great fleet, and other events 
happened that prevented the suggestion of an Anglo-Ger- 
man Alliance from being renewed. 

For some time British foreign policy went on much as 
before. There was the same dependence on German sup- 
port in Egypt ; the same concession from time to time to 
some German demand. The instance I have in mind is 
the Secret Agreement with Germany about the Portuguese 
Colonies in Africa. It is still officially “Secret,” but, as 
the German Government made it public to the world 
during the war, there was no secrecy about it. I had to 


deal with the question when I was at the Foreign Office, 
and when I come to that part of the narrative a full ac- 
count of the final stage will be given. I had occasion then 
to look at the old papers in the Foreign Office to see what 
agreement was made. It seemed to me clear, from what 
I saw in them, that the Agreement had been made very 
reluctantly so far as Lord Salisbury was concerned, and 
only in deference to German insistence — pressure would 
hardly be too strong a word. Crudely put, the German 
insistence was this: “You [Britain] are on bad terms with 
Russia and on bad terms with France. You cannot afford 
to be on bad terms with us.” Years afterwards, when I 
was at the Foreign Office, the Marquis de Soveral gave 
me an entertaining account of how the Agreement came 
to be signed. He was Portuguese Minister in London at 
the time ; he had known all about the negotiation and the 
signature of the “Secret” Agreement, and had made no 
secret to Lord Salisbury of his knowledge of it. This 
transaction must have given further cause for serious 
reflection at the Foreign Office. 

In 1899 came the South African War. There was 
much division of opinion at home about it. Many people 
thought that President Kruger’s policy had the larger 
share of responsibility. Some Liberals, of whom I was 
one, as well as the supporters of the Government, took this 

Others who admitted, as Mr. (afterwards Lord) Bryce 
had said in his book about South Africa, that President 
Kruger’s policy had been a cause of trouble, yet held that 
the war was unjustifiable. This view, as I understand it, 
was that President Kruger was an old man; that the 
defects of his policy were recognized by the younger men 
with broader outlook, who would succeed him; and that 



the British Government, by the exercise of a reasonable 
amount of patience, could have in no very long time 
secured British interests and put peace on a firm founda- 
tion of good-will in South Africa without any war at all. 

There were others who, with less study of the question, 
regarded the war as an attack upon a small country by 
aggressive British Imperialism. 

It is unnecessary to discuss now which of these three 
views was right at the time, or what degree of justice 
there was in any of them. It is well not to revive old 
unhappy things, or reopen wounds that time and true 
statesmanship on both sides have done so much to heal, 
though the scars may still be in the memory of those 
who suffered. 

It was the last of these three views that prevailed on the 
Continent. The war was regarded as aggression upon a 
small State; and sympathy with the Boers and dislike of 
Britain found free and even vehement expression. In 
Germany this feeling was as pronounced as in other 
countries — if anything, it was even stronger. This was 
particularly resented in Britain, and I have heard a Ger- 
man complain that we should have resented so strongly in 
the case of Germany, a manifestation of feeling that was 
generally shared and expressed in other countries. The 
reasons for public sentiment are often more unconscious 
than conscious, and are not always easy to analyse; but in 
this instance it was suspected, if not entirely known, that 
President Kruger had for some time received German en- 
couragement in a policy unfriendly to us. Support was 
given to this view by recollection of the German Em- 
peror’s telegram to President Kruger at the time of the 
Jameson Raid and by the fact that, when President 
Kruger came to Europe, it was the German Emperor that 



he asked to see. It is true that, when it came to the 
point, the Emperor declined to see him, but the evidence 
of previous communications, combined with the hostility 
of the German Press, prevented this from being regarded 
as an act of friendship. The friction with Germany found 
expression in an open passage of arms between Count 
Bulow, the German Chancellor, and Mr. Chamberlain. 
In this Mr. Chamberlain stood his ground, and British 
opinion supported him. All this had its effect on British 
opinion, and if in Government circles more was known 
than the public knew there must again have been serious 
cause for reflection on the discomfort, if not the actual 
insecurity, of Britain’s position. 

By the year 1900 Germany had made it manifest that 
she was adopting a new naval policy — that of a big fleet. 
Hitherto British naval ship-building had been based on 
a two-Power standard. The French and Russian fleets 
had been regarded as the only potential enemies. The 
South African War had shown that we were completely 
isolated, that every fleet was a possible enemy. Would it 
not be positively dangerous for the British Government to 
let matters drift as they had been doing in foreign policy 
for so many years? Could we afford to let probable causes 
of conflict remain without any attempt to remove them? 
Some such questions, I suppose, must have become urgent 
in the thought of British Ministers of the day. Two steps, 
at any rate, they took that were more definite and positive 
acts of policy than anything that British Governments 
had done for a long time. The first was the Anglo- 
J apanese Alliance, made in 1 902 ; the other was the Agree- 
ment with France in 1904. It is interesting to observe that 
these two steps were apparently not parts of one settled 
policy. Each was like a first step in a different policy. 



France and Russia were allies. Protection against their 
joint fleets was our standard. There were two alternative 
policies or ways by which we might endeavour to guard 
against causes of conflict — one was to make an alliance 
with another Power for protection against France or 
Russia, the other was by friendly negotiation with these 
Powers to smooth away and remove possible causes of con- 
flict. The Anglo-Japanese alliance was a step in the 
direction of the first policy; the Anglo-French Agreement 
was a step in the direction of the second. 

The explanation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance is 
simple enough. The fact and circumstances of the Rus- 
sian occupation of Port Arthur had made it appear that 
the most probable cause of conflict with Russia was in the 
Far East. In the seventies of the last century the danger- 
point had seemed to be Constantinople and the Near 
East. Russia had dropped the policy of pushing against 
Turkey, and Turkey was now fortified by German friend- 
ship and the increasing commercial stake that Germany 
was acquiring in Turkey. 

Then, in the eighties, there had continued the excursions 
and alarums about Russian advances towards the Indian 
frontier. These had died down or evaporated on the 
great altitudes or in the deserts of Asia. It was in the 
Far East that Russia seemed now to be concentrating. 
This was a menace more serious to Japan than to us; the 
recollection of the diplomatic coercion of Japan in 1895 
by Russia, Germany, and France, and of British refusal to 
join in that coercion, made the Anglo-Japanese Alliance 
an easy, almost an obvious, transaction. 

It was, however, with France that the most vital points 
of dispute were likely to occur: it was between Britain 
and France that a storm might most suddenly arise and 



be so violent as to sweep the two countries into war with 
each other. The counterpart to the Anglo-Japanese Al- 
liance, the application of the same policy to France would 
have been an alliance with Germany. But the opportunity 
for that had passed, when Mr. Chamberlain made his 
overture. It is interesting to observe how inevitably one 
comes, in this period, to quote Mr. Chamberlain to illus- 
trate tendencies in foreign policy. It was he who spoke 
the strong word about the Russian occupation of Port 
Arthur; it was he who advocated a German Alliance; 
it was in his passage of arms with the German Chancellor 
that friction with Germany over the South African War 
found expression. It is as if he had been the most sensitive 
barometer by which to read tendencies in foreign policy. 
The time when it had pointed to “set fair” in Anglo- 
German relations had gone by. The Government of Mr. 
Balfour, who had succeeded Lord Salisbury as Prime 
Minister, adopted with France the policy of an under- 
standing that should remove causes of dispute by mutual 
good will and agreement. 

Lord Lansdowne and M. Delcasse were the Secretaries 
for Foreign Affairs in London and Paris respectively, and 
I imagine that the ground must have been prepared by 
long and patient work in which M. Cambon, the French 
Ambassador in London, no doubt took great part. Egypt 
was the perpetual sore point: French objection to British 
occupation of Egypt had for long been a cardinal point 
of French policy and opinion. It could not be easy to 
make an agreement on this point that would be acceptable 
to France. In countries like Egypt, where foreign na- 
tions have extra-territorial rights, it is not enough that 
they should cease to object to our presence; active support 
is required for some essential problems of Government, 



such as taxation and the administration of justice. To 
make our position satisfactory we were bound to have 
French support, not merely the assurance that there would 
be no French obstruction. Otherwise causes of friction 
would continue, and we should remain as dependent as 
before upon the Triple Alliance, that is, upon German 
support. Eventually an agreement was made of which the 
salient point was that France would give diplomatic sup- 
port to us in Egypt, and we would give the same to her in 

On the face of the Agreement with France there was 
nothing more than a desire to remove causes of dispute 
between the two nations, to make up old quarrels, to be- 
come friends. It was all made public, except a clause or 
two of no importance, which were not published at the 
time, owing to regard, as I suppose, for the susceptibilities 
of the Sultan of Morocco : even these were published a 
few years later. Was it in the minds of those who made 
the simple, straightforward Agreement for settling 
present differences that it would develop into something 
more, into what was called the Entente Cordiale — a gen- 
eral diplomatic alliance with no new obligations, but with 
preparations for the contingency of a German attack on 
France? Was this in the minds of the men in London and 
Paris when they were making the Agreement? Or was 
it brought about solely by the efforts of Germany to shake 
or break the Agreement after it was made? 

I cannot say. There is in great affairs so much more, 
as a rule, in the minds of the events (if such an expression 
may be used) than in the minds of the chief actors. I 
remember very well what my own feeling was when I 
read the Agreement. It was a feeling of simple pleasure 
and relief. I saw all that had been most disagreeable in 



my experience at the Foreign Office from 1892-5 swept 
away. We should no longer be dependent on German 
support in Egypt, with all the discomfort that this de- 
pendence had entailed. I had no desire to thwart German 
interests, but we should now be able to negotiate with Ger- 
many without the handicap of the Egyptian noose round 
our necks. That was a welcome relief; but that appeared 
to me an incidental and not the main advantage of the 
Agreement — a by-product and not the chief matter. 

The real cause for satisfaction was that the exasperating 
friction with France was to end, and that the menace of 
war with France had disappeared. The gloomy clouds 
were gone, the sky was clear, and the sun shone warmly. 
Ill-will, dislike, hate, whether the object of them be a per- 
son or a nation, are a perpetual discomfort; they come 
between us and all that is beautiful and happy. They put 
out the sun. If the object be a nation with whom our in- 
terests are in contact they poison the atmosphere of inter- 
national affairs. This had been so between Britain and 
France. The writing of the Press on each side of the 
Channel had been a constant source of annoyance and 
wrath. That was all to be changed ; it was to become 
positively pleasant. To see what is pleasant, where we 
have seen before only what was repellent; to understand 
and to be understood where before there had been mis- 
representation and misconstruction; to be friends instead 
of enemies — this, when it happens, is one of the great 
pleasures of life. That was enough for me at the time; 
I felt as if there were some benign influence abroad, and 
in that spirit I spoke in welcome of the Agreement in the 
House of Commons. 1 

It was indeed obvious that Germany would not like 

1 See Appendix B tJ Vol. ii., p. 293. 



the Agreement. She had profited by the constant dis- 
sensions between Britain and France. Was it not said that 
after 1870 Bismarck had deliberately encouraged French 
expansion in Africa, foreseeing that this would keep 
Britain and France occupied with each other? But really 
good relations with Germany could not be founded on 
bad relations with France ; I saw no reason why we should 
be hostile to German interests, where Germany was ex- 
panding, and, if we were not, why should the Agreement 
with France mean bad relations with Germany? In 
British minds, certainly in my own, the Anglo-French 
Agreement was not regarded as more than I have de- 
scribed it. It was the subsequent attempts of Germany to 
shake or break it that turned it into an Entente. These 
attempts were not long in coming. The German Emperor 
made a visit that was like a demonstration at Tangier, 
and in 1905 the German Government forced the French, 
by what was practically a challenge, to dismiss M. Del- 
casse (their Minister for Foreign Affairs who had made 
the Franco-British Agreement) and to agree to an inter- 
national conference about Morocco. 

One man there was, of great position in public life, who 
was an exception to the general approval of the Anglo- 
French Agreement. I do not know that he ever expressed 
his views in public, but he made no secret to me that he 
thought it a mistake and that he disagreed with my sup- 
port of it. The German Army, he remarked, was the 
strongest in the world. When M. Delcasse was sacrificed 
he said to me, “Your friends the French are trembling like 
an aspen.” The time cannot have been comfortable for 
Lord Lansdowne and for the British Government. The 
French were being humiliated because of an Agreement 
that we had made with them. The Agreement bound us 



only to diplomatic support, but the German attitude 
threatened more than diplomatic action. If Germany 
used force, and France were in serious trouble, what was 
our position to be? We had no obligation, none whatever, 
to which France could appeal, to go beyond diplomatic 
support; but could we stand aside complacently and see 
her suffer for something in which we were her partner? 

Such was the prospective situation with which Mr. 
Balfour’s Government were confronted in 1905. Of what 
they did, or how they regarded it, I knew nothing at the 
time and I had no expectation then of ever having to deal 
with it myself. The French tided over the crisis in 1905 
by letting M. Delcasse go from the Foreign Office, the 
German Emperor emphasized the occasion by making 
Count Biilow a Prince. The personal triumph over M. 
Delcasse was complete, and by the French agreement to 
a Conference the question of Morocco was postponed. 
The crisis had passed for the moment, to be faced again 
later on when the Conference should meet. Before that 
time came there had been a change of Government at 
home. I had gone to the Foreign Office, and from that 
point this narrative will resume the account with full 
knowledge and in detail. 

One other outstanding event at the end of this period 
must be noticed. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance had put 
Japan in a position to avenge the slight and retrieve the 
loss inflicted upon her by the combination of European 
Powers in 1895. She could now try conclusions with 
Russia alone. If any other European Power were to help 
Russia, then Britain would be bound to come to the assist- 
ance of Japan; and the British and Japanese fleets to- 
gether would be amply strong enough to prevent any 
European combination against Japan. The Russo- 



Japanese War came in due course. It was not without 
incident for us. The Russian fleet, on its way out to the 
Far East, fired on British fishing vessels in the North 
Sea. The act was due to a high state of suspicion and 
nervous tension on the part of the Russian fleet. It was 
not credible that the Russians knew they were firing on 
unarmed peaceful fishing vessels, though it was difficult to 
believe that they really thought it possible for Japanese 
torpedo-boats to be in the North Sea, as they said. It 
was therefore not easy to understand what the Russians 
did think they were firing at, and why their guns went 
off at all. There was a moment of great and natural 
excitement in public opinion, but the British Government 
kept the affair under control, and it was settled without 
further consequences. 

The Russian fleet pursued its journey. In Madagascar 
it received facilities and hospitality from the French be- 
yond what the rules of international law were generally 
understood to allow to belligerent ships in neutral ports. 
It seemed to me at the time that Japan might have urged 
that the action of France had gone beyond the limits of 
neutrality; that Japan could have appealed to the Anglo- 
Japanese Treaty and have requested us to take some 
counter-action. So far as I knew, Japan did not raise 
the question, being confident, no doubt, of her ability to 
deal with the Russian fleet when it arrived, and not 
desiring to invoke the letter of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty 
for help that she did not need. The Russian fleet, without 
further incident, went to its fate at the battle of Tsushimi. 
Japan won the war, and peace was made by the repre- 
sentatives of Russia and Japan meeting on American soil 
under the auspices of President Roosevelt. One of the 
conditions of peace was the cession of Port Arthur by 



Russia to Japan. The method by which Russia had ac- 
quired Port Arthur made the cession of it to Japan seem 
to be an act of mere justice. Japan had been ordered away 
in 1895 by Russia, France, and Germany, after a success- 
ful war with China, on the ground that the integrity of 
Chinese territory was a sacred principle that must not be 
violated. Russia had then occupied the place herself on 
a long lease extorted from China, without regard to the 
principle of integrity of Chinese territory, so lately pro- 
claimed sacred against Japan. If Port Arthur was not to 
remain Chinese, Japan clearly had a better right to it than 
Russia, after all that had passed. 

On the other hand, I could not but reflect that, apart 
from the merits of the Port Arthur affair, the case of 
Russia was hard. This mighty Empire needed and was 
ever seeking an outlet to a sea that did not freeze. By far 
the greater part of the world’s commerce is sea-borne; the 
oceans are the great highways of commerce. With few 
exceptions, every nation, small or great, had its own ports 
on this great thoroughfare. Russia, with the most exten- 
sive territory and a huge population, had no outlet under 
her own control ; not one where she could keep a fleet that 
would not be frozen up in winter. In the Near East 
access to the Mediterranean had been barred to her, 
notably by Britain under Lord Beaconsfield. Lord Lans- 
downe, the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, had 
lately made a declaration that was a warning not to touch 
the Persian Gulf. That barred the Middle East outlet 
to a warm sea. And now the British Alliance with Japan 
had deprived Russia of the outlet of Port Arthur in the 
Far East. Was it possible ever to have peace and quiet, 
or indeed to have anything but recurrent friction with 
Russia on such terms? The question of Port Arthur 



might be settled on terms of justice as between Russia and 
Japan, but the problem of British relations with Russia 
remained. Our most important points of contact with 
Russia were not in the Far East, and it was in the Far 
East only that the Anglo- Japanese Alliance made us 
secure. It did not apply elsewhere. Something, at any 
rate, of this I remember to have been in my mind at the 

After the war Japan was extremely popular. The 
smaller nation had beaten the giant; British sporting in- 
stincts were gratified ; we admired the efficiency to which 
the Japanese had attained and the rapidity with which 
they had learnt what we had to teach of naval construc- 
tion and equipment, and the handling of things so com- 
plicated as modern ships of war. This feeling seemed to 
us natural, reasonable, and right. Not long afterwards 
I was told a story that put it in another light. The story 
ran that a Japanese in England, finding himself and his 
nation to be objects of admiration, reflected thus upon the 
course of events: “Yes,” he said, “we used to be a nation 
of artists; our art was really very good; you called us 
barbarians then. Now our art is not so good as it was, but 
we have learned how to kill, and you say we are civilized.” 

The story was familiar to me long before the Great 
War ; whether it is a true story I never knew, but there was 
a truth in it that gave a feeling of discomfort, of question. 
What was the answer to such an observation? Was there 
something very wrong about our civilization and the 
virtues of which we felt so sure? The Great War has 
given a terrible answer. 

For me personally these years of opposition were a time 
of happy detachment. I could take as much or as little 
share in public life as I felt moved to do. I could express 



individual views, and did so, sometimes differing from 
the majority of the Liberal Party. If this was resented 
in the Liberal Party my reply was that I had no desire 
for office, and that, if my constituents did not approve 
my views, I was ready and should even be pleased to stand 
aside. The leaders of the Liberal Party themselves were 
not all in harmony, and the leadership changed three times 
in these ten years. By 1902, however, the things on which 
I had differed from many Liberals had ceased to be 
present and active causes of difference. The South Afri- 
can War was over; the reconquest of the Soudan was ac- 
complished and the occupation was proving a success and 
an indisputable boon to that country and its people. In 
1902 I found myself in full and active agreement with the 
Liberal attitude to the Conservative Elementary Educa- 
tion Bill. Then, in 1903, came the Fiscal Controversy, 
on which I felt stirred to take an earnest part against what 
seemed to me the fallacies and dangers of Protection. 
This brought me thoroughly into line with the Liberal 
Party, and it was impossible to have clear views on a ques- 
tion so vital as the Fiscal Controversy without being 
drawn to take a more sustained and active part in politics 
than I had intended or wished. For in this period there 
had opened the prospect of another sort of life, much 
more congenial to my wife and to me than politics and 

In 1898 I had been elected to the Board of the North- 
Eastern Railway Company. In mileage and gross re- 
ceipts and in financial strength combined the North- 
Eastern ranked amongst the four greatest British railways. 
The work was interesting; the conditions under which it 
was done were exceedingly pleasant and congenial. The 
full Board consisted of twenty members; twice a month 




they assembled, generally at York, on a Thursday, and 
remained till after the Board meeting on Friday, working 
in Committees on Thursday and spending the evening 
together. In this way they got to know each other well, 
and for all the time they were at York they were in the 
atmosphere of the business of the railway. The Board in- 
cluded some of the ablest and most experienced and 
soundest men of business in the country; the meetings were 
always interesting, as well as pleasant. The railway was 
a great separate organization, playing a great part and 
spending large capital in the development of the pros- 
perous industrial area of the North-East of England from 
the Humber to the Tweed, on which our whole interest 
and attention were concentrated. 

Only twice in the year did the railway business take me 
to London; the other meetings were all at York or New- 
castle. The North-Eastern Railway no longer exists as 
a separate institution, and many things have changed 
since those easier and simpler days. In 1898 Sir Matthew 
Ridley was Home Secretary, and yet retained a seat on the 
Board and attended our meetings, and his doing so was 
taken as a matter of course; he himself was the last person 
to do anything that bordered on inconvenience or impro- 
priety. But it would be out of the question for a Home 
Secretary to sit on a Railway Board to-day. In 1902, not 
long after his retirement from the Government, Lord 
Ridley (as he had then been made) became Chairman of 
the North-Eastern Railway. He died suddenly in 1904 — 
a great loss to our district, for he was a man of ability, 
whom everyone trusted. I was chosen to succeed him. 
The year 1905 was one of the happiest of my life; the work 
of Chairman of the Railway was agreeable and in- 
teresting, but it left in those days plenty of leisure. There 


were many days spent at home, in the Itchen Valley or 
in Scotland. If only I could be free altogether from 
politics, there was the prospect of permanent and interest- 
ing work with income sufficient for all we needed, and 
a more constant home and country life than we had yet 
enjoyed. Life, which had been very pleasant since 1895, 
promised to become more pleasant and settled still. It 
was not to be. 




Balfour’s Resignation — Campbell-Bannerman’s Government — Difficul- 
ties in joining it — An Interview with the Prime Minister — Reasons 
for Coming in — Back to the Foreign Office — The Importance of 
Free Trade — Campbell-Bannerman’s Characteristics — The Quali- 
ties of a Good Colleague. 

I N December 1905 the Unionist Government resigned. 
The party that supported it was really a Unionist 
Party in those days, its object being to maintain the 
Act of Union that united Great Britain and Ireland. By 
the irony of things that Union was destroyed by a Govern- 
ment of which the majority belonged to the Unionist 
Party, and the name has now become an anachronism. 
The party in 1905 was still united on the subject of Ire- 
land, but the energy of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain had 
made Tariff Reform the dominant issue before the 
country. He had resigned from the Government in 1903 
to head a Tariff Reform crusade in which it was under- 
stood that he would have the support and sympathy of 
Mr. Balfour and the Government, which had been purged 
of its Free Trade Members. 

By December 1905 there was every reason for taking 
the opinion of the electors. For ten years there had 
been no General Election except that of 1900, which had 
been taken in the middle of the South African War, and 
was therefore no opportunity for the expression of popu- 
lar opinion on anything else except the war. Tariff Re- 



form was a new issue : it had now been debated before the 
country for over two years. It was therefore altogether 
reasonable, right, and proper that there should now be 
a dissolution and a General Election. But there was no 
apparent reason why Mr. Balfour’s Government should 
have resigned: they had a good majority in Parliament; 
it was more than two years since the Free Trade Mem- 
bers of the Government had resigned; the shock of that 
had not broken up the Government then and could not be 
the cause of its resignation now. The only conceivable 
reason was that the Government was exhausted and tired 
— not a good recommendation for giving them support at 
the polls. There is no doubt that this resignation was a 
great tactical disadvantage to them. 

Campbell-Bannerman was, as leader of the Opposition, 
invited by the King to form a Government. The Liberal 
and Irish parties together were in a minority in Parlia- 
ment; it was clearly impossible for a Liberal Government 
to meet the House of Commons as it then was, and Camp- 
bell-Bannerman undertook to form a Government on 
condition that there was an immediate dissolution of 

He had no difficulty in forming a Government, but I 
made difficulty for some days about joining it. I was 
closely associated with Asquith and Haldane in House of 
Commons work, and our view was that, with Campbell- 
Bannerman as Prime Minister, the leadership in the Com- 
mons should be in Asquith’s hands. There had not been 
differences about foreign policy, but there had been about 
Imperial affairs such as the South African War and the 
Soudan, and my view was that Asquith would be the more 
robust and stronger leader in policy and debate in the 
Commons. I explained this with some frankness to 


Campbell-Bannerman; I had no feeling but one of liking 
for him personally, and I wanted him to know just where 
I stood, and to feel that I was not suppressing in his 
presence things that I had said about him elsewhere. 
Perhaps it was some understanding of this that made him 
take all I said in good part. Asquith had from the first 
been prepared to take office. Arthur Acland, who had 
retired from public life, but with whom I had worked 
closely and intimately in past years, had a long talk with 
me. Haldane decided to go into office; there were no 
substantial reasons for standing out alone, and, as Camp- 
bell-Bannerman still offered it, I went to the Foreign 

It will be understood from what has been said in the 
last chapter that the decision brought no joy either to my 
wife or myself; it meant exile again from home, life in 
London, and a number of those social functions which 
Sir George Cornewall Lewis probably had in mind when 
he said that “life would be tolerable if it were not for its 
amusements.” Probably my wife’s comment had much 
to do with the decision. “If we had refused office,” she 
said, “we could not have justified the decision to the 
constituents.” It was the constituency that had kept us 
in public life. They had returned me to Parliament at 
the age of twenty-three, a young and untried man; for 
twenty years they had continued their confidence, giving 
me generously freedom to indulge individual views even 
when these differed from those of the majority of the 
party. I had not been in a position to spend much money 
on organization or propaganda; I had indeed paid an 
agent’s fee with other election expenses, but in the years 
between elections I had, up to 1906, had no paid agent. 
All the necessary work had been done with the very 



slender resources of the local association and by voluntary 
work. As in most country constituencies, the majority of 
those who had wealth or large property were on the 
Conservative side. The Liberal strength lay in the num- 
ber of devoted men scattered throughout the constituency 
to whom Liberal politics were a matter of conviction, and 
to work for the return of a Liberal Member was a matter 
of conscience. They had done it with the minimum of 
help from me. Time after time my wife and I had 
watched the counting of the votes with the feeling that, 
if I were beaten, our greatest regret would be for the dis- 
appointment of those who had worked so hard for a 
Liberal success : we, too, should have been sorry no doubt 
on public grounds, but I felt, almost with a sense of 
guilt, that the relief of being set free from Parliament 
would be an irresistible joy. 

It was for the constituents that we should have minded 
defeat. My wife had done much to found and encourage 
Liberal Associations, not so much for party purposes as 
from a belief that such Associations were good for women. 
She thought that to take an intelligent interest and an or- 
ganized pari: in public affairs broadened outlook and en- 
larged life. Her views had met with response and co- 
operation, and she had made many friends. Thus we were 
conscious of responsibility to a number of earnest people, 
who had a right to expect me to do my best in Parliament. 
It may be added that the home associations of all my life 
were in the district: this gave a touch of sentiment and 
intimacy. Ties of sentiment and moral obligation there 
must be between every member and a constituency that 
has returned him for twenty years, and in my case these 
were exceptionally strong and compelling. Now sud- 
denly I was asked to take one of the highest offices in pub- 


lie life, and when my wife said that refusal could not be 
justified to the constituents, I felt that this was indeed the 
truest and decisive judgment on the matter. 

The other considerations that then seemed important 
were based upon a mistaken sense of values. I had a 
notion that the public interest required that every mem- 
ber of the Liberal Party who counted for anything should 
contribute his help to the Liberal Government. The 
Tariff Reform issue was a great crisis. I believed that 
Protection would undermine our Trade; but the weight 
of the Press was against us. The arguments for Protection 
are more easily made attractive than those for Free Trade; 
the issue of the contest seemed doubtful. It was a time 
when every Free Trader, who might be counted for 
strength to Campbell-Bannerman’s Government, should 
join it. Such reflections were a consolation after the dis- 
agreeable choice of office was made. The result of the 
Election, with its enormous and unprecedented Liberal 
majority, showed what a delusion it had been to suppose 
that it mattered anything to the cause of Free Trade 
whether I joined the Government or not: the country had 
made up its mind that it was tired of the Conservative 
Government and that it would not have Tariff Reform, 
and it did not make any difference whether people like 
myself joined the Government or not. 

I had made difficulties, as I now think unnecessarily, 
about going into office, but when in it I made none. 
Campbell-Bannerman’s leadership in the Commons was 
accepted, and there was complete loyalty to him. Ex- 
perience showed that it had been quite unnecessary to 
raise any question of his leaving the House of Commons. 
Things went well enough as they were, and the differences 
and divisions of opinion that had existed when the party 



was in opposition never reappeared. Campbell-Banner- 
man’s own personality contributed greatly to this result. 
He provoked no rivalry or ambition in others. It is true 
that, once installed as leader of the party, he showed a 
dogged determination to stay there and not to be dis- 
lodged from it, but everyone knew that he had never 
worked to get the leadership or desired it for himself. 
He had been loyal to previous leaders, and had not been 
concerned in the intrigues either for himself or against 
others. He was a strong party man, but it was for the 
success of the party, not for his own prestige as its leader, 
that he cared. 

From the moment his Cabinet was formed he made no 
distinction in personal relations, in intimacy and sym- 
pathy between those who had helped him and those who 
had made difficulties for him when the party was in op- 
position. He was said to have regarded Haldane as one 
of those who had worked most actively against his leader- 
ship. Haldane was now at the War Office. Campbell- 
Bannerman’s previous experience and knowledge enabled 
him to give special help to anyone who held that very 
difficult post, and he gave it unsparingly and whole- 
heartedly to Haldane. In return, he expected equal 
loyalty from everyone, and he received it. His personality 
has been given, more fully and better than I could do it, 
in Spender’s Life of him, but one quality may be men- 
tioned here that he possessed in a peculiar degree. He 
had an unusually just as well as keen perception of the 
weaknesses of other men, and it was extraordinarily de- 
tached. No personal devotion to himself blunted or 
dulled the edge of his discerning eye. He was not more 
conscious of the weak points of his critics than he was of 
the weak points of his admirers. If he had taken the 


trouble to do it, he could probably have given the best 
and most just criticism of himself. He seemed to have 
no favourites, not even himself for one. Whether he had 
an equally keen and just appreciation of excellence is more 
doubtful; he seemed rather to appreciate freedom from 
weaknesses that he despised or disliked than to admire 
positive qualities. He was always ready, however, to give 
credit for good or successful work done by colleagues 
without thought of himself. For the two years of his 
Premiership the Cabinet was peculiarly and happily free 
from personal differences and restlessness. 

Asquith was the only man who could then aspire to 
succeed to the post of Prime Minister, and Asquith was 
not only free from all self-seeking, but ready, as later 
experience showed, to carry loyalty to colleagues to the 
point of generosity and chivalry, if need be. The am- 
bitions of younger men were for the present satisfied by 
being in a Cabinet for the first time. All of us who had 
big offices were absorbed in getting to know the work of 
our Departments and in transacting it. 

Reflection has suggested some regret for the personal 
difficulties made in taking office: on the other hand, it 
brings the thought that, when in office, I was entitled to 
the character of a good colleague in respect of two things, 
at any rate, that go to qualify a man for that character. 

One of these is to put his mind into the common stock; 
to work sincerely in matters of difference of opinion and 
difficulty for a Cabinet decision. This does not mean that 
what is regarded by a Minister as vital to the public 
interest should be compromised. A Minister should re- 
sign rather than agree to that. It means that a Minister 
should not press his personal views unduly about what is 
not essential, that he should contend for substance not 



for form, that he should consider without amour-propre 
how his own opinion can be reconciled with that of others. 
Subject to the one qualification of not sacrificing what he 
regards as vital to the public interest, he should not con- 
tend for victory, but work for agreement in the Cabinet. 

The other qualification is that of accepting full per- 
sonal responsibility for Cabinet decisions, when once 
agreed to. Perhaps a third qualification might be men- 
tioned, that of never threatening resignation or talking 
about it, except in the last resort on a matter of vital im- 
portance, and then only when resignation is really in- 




The Algeciras Conference — French Apprehensions — Testing the Anglo- 
French Agreement — A Question for the New Government — The 
Impossibility of Answering It — Interviews with M. Cambon — Mil- 
itary Conversations and Their Limitations — An Interview with 
Metternich — Campbell-Bannerman’s View — Ought There to Have 
Been a Cabinet? — Preparations and Precautions — Armaments and 
[War — A Later Transaction — The Grey-Cambon Letters of 1912 
— Endorsement by the Cabinet. 

O NE duty of a Cabinet Minister is to make the 
work of the Department assigned to him the first 
charge upon his time. The Foreign Office leaves 
the Secretary of State, who is in charge of it, no choice 
but to fulfil this duty. The work besets and besieges him. 
If he gets into arrears he cannot overtake them and also 
deal with the current work of every day. He is like a 
man in deep water, who must keep on swimming or be 

On the afternoon of Monday, December 1 1 , 1905, the 
Liberal Ministers received the seals of office from the 
King. There was on that afternoon one of the very worst 
of London fogs : I do not remember whether any sar- 

castic or ominous comments were made on the coinci- 
dence. I drove to Buckingham Palace in a brougham 
hired for the occasion, and John Morley, Henry Fowler, 
and I drove away in it together after receiving our seals. 

We had got but a little way from the gates when the 




brougham came to a stand, completely lost in the fog. 
Thinking I could do better on my feet, I left the broug- 
ham; in a few steps I had lost my way and sense of direc- 
tion. I walked into the head of a horse, and felt my way 
along its side, till I found a hansom-cab attached to it. 
The driver, when asked if he could find his way to Bird- 
cage Walk, said he had just come from it and would try; 
he succeeded after some time, and it was then easy to 
follow the kerb at a foot’s pace to the Foreign Office, 
where I then took over the work. 

The Election was already upon us; the polls were to 
be held in January; the campaign of speeches was begin- 
ning. I devoted the time before Christmas to the work 
of the Foreign Office. We spent Sunday the 24th and 
Christmas with Rosebery at the Durdans. He had often 
made it clear, after his retirement from leadership of the 
party in 1900, that the formation of the next Govern- 
ment would be no concern of his : it was therefore the 
general assumption that he would continue to stand aside, 
and there had been no surprise at his doing so. But the 
separation made a great blank, not only to me, but to my 
wife. She had always felt that he gave distinction and 
interest to politics and lifted them out of the drab and 
commonplace. I was oppressed by the stress of work 
at the Foreign Office, making myself acquainted with so 
much that was new or unfamiliar after an absence of ten 
and a half years; and before me was the prospect of com- 
bining this work with the effort of an election campaign. 

The constituency was a large rural area, including 
the towns of Berwick and Alnwick, and many villages 
large and small. There was a Conservative opponent 
addressing meetings, and I had to do the best I could. 
Relying on the forbearance of constituents and trusting 


them to make allowance for the strain of Foreign Office 
work, I arranged to spend three days a week at the For- 
eign Office. Every Wednesday night I left London, 
getting home in good time for breakfast; the last three 
days of the week were given to election speeches, the 
paper work of the Foreign Office that followed me being 
done each morning. Each Sunday night I returned to 
London and gave the first three days entirely to the 
Foreign Office. Other Cabinet Ministers were in the 
same position. It was of course impossible to hold any 
Cabinets. It was under these conditions that the first criti- 
cal occasion in foreign policy came upon us. 

I have already mentioned how, a few months before, 
Germany had forced upon France the dismissal of M. 
Delcasse, the French Minister who had made the Anglo- 
French Agreement with Lord Lansdowne in 1904. 
France, under this pressure, had agreed to an interna- 
tional Conference about Morocco, to be held at Algeciras. 
Germany had intended thus to shake or to test the strength 
of the Anglo-French Agreement while the Conservative 
Government, that had made the Agreement, was in office; 
she was not likely to be less resolute in that intention now 
that a Liberal Government had succeeded, which had not 
been directly responsible for the Agreement. 

Campbell-Bannerman, after becoming Prime Minister, 
had publicly stated his agreement with the main lines of 
policy followed by Lord Lansdowne; but his Government 
was not likely to be more stiff or positive than their pre- 
decessors. It was therefore certain that the change of 
Government in Britain could not have dissipated the 
cloud that was gathering, and that might burst in storm at 
Algeciras. The date fixed for the meeting of the Con- 
ference was not so very far off. French apprehensions 



were naturally great; it was vital to them to know, before 
the Conference met, how they stood with regard to British 

On Wednesday, January 10, M. Paul Cambon, the 
French Ambassador, who had returned from Paris with 
instructions from his Government, put the critical ques- 
tion to me. My record of the conversation is printed 
in Spender’s Life of Campbell-Bannerman, but it must 
have its place also here: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

January 10 , 1906. 

Sir, — After informing me this afternoon of the nature of the instruc- 
tions which M. Rouvier was addressing to the French Plenipotentiary 
at the Conference about to meet at Algeciras on Moorish affairs (as 
recorded in my immediately preceding despatch), the French Ambassador 
went on to say that he had spoken to M. Rouvier on the importance 
of arriving at an understanding as to the course which would be taken 
by France and Great Britain in the event of the discussions terminating 
in a rupture between France and Germany. M. Cambon said that he 
did not believe that the German Emperor desired war, but that His 
Majesty was pursuing a very dangerous policy. He had succeeded in 
inciting public opinion and military opinion in Germany, and there was 
a risk that matters might be brought to a point in which a pacific issue 
would be difficult. During the previous discussions on the subject of 
Morocco, Lord Lansdowne had expressed his opinion that the British 
and French Governments should frankly discuss any eventualities that 
might seem possible, and by his instructions your Excellency had com- 
municated a Memorandum to M. Declasse to the same effect. It had 
not been considered necessary at the time to discuss the eventuality of 
war, but it now seemed desirable that this eventuality should also be 

M. Cambon said that he had spoken to this effect to M. Rouvier, who 
agreed in his view. It was not necessary, nor, indeed, expedient that 
there should be any formal alliance; but it was of great importance 
that the French Government should know beforehand whether, in the 


event of aggression against France by Germany, Great Britain would 
be prepared to render to France armed assistance. 

I replied that at the present moment the Prime Minister was out of 
town, and that the Cabinet were all dispersed seeing after the elections ; 
that we were not as yet aware of the sentiments of the country as they 
would be expressed at the polls ; and that it was impossible therefore for 
me, in the circumstances, to give a reply to his Excellency’s question. 
I could only state as my personal opinion that, if France were to be 
attacked by Germany in consequence of a question arising out of the 
Agreement which our predecessors had recently concluded with the 
French Government, public opinion in England would be strongly 
moved in favour of France. 

M. Cambon said that he understood this, and that he would repeat 
his question after the elections. 

I said that what Great Britain earnestly desired was that the Con- 
ference should have a pacific issue favourable to France. 

His Excellency replied that nothing would have a more pacific 
influence on the Emperor of Germany than the conviction that, if Ger- 
many attacked France, she would find England allied against her. 

I said that I thought the German Emperor did believe this, but that 
it was one thing that his opinion should be held in Germany and another 
that we should give a positive assurance to France on the subject. 
There could be no greater mistake than that a Minister should give 
such an assurance unless he were perfectly certain that it would be 
fulfilled. I did not believe that any Minister could, in present circum- 
stances, say more than I had done, and, however strong the sympathy 
of Great Britain might be with France in the case of a rupture with 
Germany, the expression which might be given to it and the action which 
might follow must depend largely upon the circumstances in which the 
rupture took place. 

M. Cambon said that he spoke of aggression on the part of Germany, 
possibly in consequence of some necessary action on the part of France 
for the protection of her Algerian frontier, or on some other grounds 
which justified such action. 

I said that, as far as a definite promise went, I was not in a position 
to pledge the country to more than neutrality — a benevolent neutrality, 
if such a thing existed. M. Cambon said that a promise of neutrality 
did not, of course, satisfy him, and repeated that he would bring the 
question to me again at the conclusion of the elections. 


7 2 

In the meantime, he thought it advisable that unofficial communica- 
tions between our Admiralty and War Office and the French Naval 
and Military Attaches should take place as to what action might advan- 
tageously be taken in case the two countries found themselves in alliance 
in such a war. Some communications had, he believed, already passed, 
and might, he thought, be continued. They did not pledge either 

I did not dissent from this view. — I am, etc., 

Edward Grey. 

It was inevitable that the French should ask the ques- 
tion ; it was impossible that we should answer it. 

I sent the record of the conversation to Campbell-Ban- 
nerman and also to Lord Ripon. The latter led the party 
in the House of Lords. He was a Minister of great 
experience — he had indeed been a colleague with my 
grandfather, Sir George Grey, in the last Cabinet of 
Lord Palmerston in the early sixties of the last century. 
Soon after we went into office he told me that he knew 
there were always some Foreign Office papers that were 
sent to the Prime Minister, and not circulated to the 
Cabinet, at any rate in the first instance; he asked that 
these should also be sent to him, as he would have to speak 
on foreign affairs in the House of Lords. To this I 
readily agreed, and it was regularly done. 

It was not till some time after I entered office that I 
discovered that, under the threat of German pressure 
upon France in 1905, steps had been taken to concert mili- 
tary plans, in the event of war being forced upon France. 
It had been done without incurring any obligation beyond 
what was contained in the published Anglo-French 
Agreement — that is to say, there was no obligation to go 
beyond diplomatic support. I was quite clear that no 
Cabinet could undertake any obligation to go to war, but 
the Anglo-French Agreement was popular in Britain. 


It was certain that if Germany forced a quarrel on France 
upon the very matter of that Agreement, the pro-French 
feeling in Britain would be very strong, so strong prob- 
ably as to justify a British Government in intervening on 
the side of France or even to insist on its doing so. We 
must, therefore, be free to go to the help of France as 
well as free to stand aside. But modern war may be an 
affair of days. If there were no military plans made 
beforehand we should be unable to come to the assistance 
of France in time, however strongly public opinion in 
Britain might desire it. We should in effect not have 
preserved our freedom to help France, but have cut our- 
selves off from the possibility of doing so, unless we had 
allowed the British and French staffs to concert plans for 
common action. 

My recollection is that M. Cambon put some such con- 
siderations before me; they were at any rate present to 
my mind, and the force of them is obvious. Therefore, 
besides sending the record of the conversation to Camp- 
bell-Bannerman and Lord Ripon, I spoke to Haldane, 
now Secretary of State for War; he, like myself, was 
fighting for his seat in the country constituency of East 
Lothian. We met on one of my election platforms at 
Berwick, and I took the occasion to tell him of the request 
for military conversations between British and French 
military authorities. This despatch to Lord Bertie 
records the result: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

January 15, 1906. 

Sir, — I told M. Cambon to-day that I had communicated to the 
Prime Minister my account of his conversation with me on the 10th 
instant. I had heard from the Prime Minister that he could not be 



in London before January 25, and it would therefore not be possible 
for me to discuss things with him before then, and the Members of the 
Government would not assemble in London before the 29th ; I could 
therefore give no further answer to-day on the question he had addressed 
to me. He had spoken to me on the 10th of communications passing 
between the French Naval Attache and the Admiralty. I understood 
that these communications had been with Sir John Fisher. If that 
was so, it was not necessary for me to do any more; but, with regard 
to the communications between the French Military Attache and the 
War Office, I understood from him that these had taken place through 
an intermediary. I had therefore taken the opportunity of speaking to 
Mr. Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, who had been taking 
part in my election contest in Northumberland on Friday, and he had 
authorized me to say that these communications might proceed between 
the French Military Attache and General Grierson direct; but it must 
be understood that these communications did not commit either Govern- 
ment. M. Cambon said that the intermediary in question had been a 
retired Colonel, the military correspondent of the Times , who, he under- 
stood, had been sent from the War Office. — I am, etc., 

Edward Grey. 

Plans for naval and military co-operation had, I found, 
begun to be made under Lord Lansdowne in 1905, when 
the German pressure was menacing. The naval conversa- 
tions had already been direct; the military conversations 
had hitherto been through an intermediary: they, too, 
were henceforth to be direct. But it was to be clearly 
understood that these conversations or plans between 
military or naval staffs did not commit either Govern- 
ment, and involved no promise of support in war. The 
question that pre-occupied me most anxiously was how 
to answer M. Cambon’s request for a promise of military 
or naval support if Germany forced war upon France. I 
knew we could not give it, but what would be the effect 
of the refusal on France? Would France say that the 
promise of diplomatic support contained in the Anglo- 


French Agreement was worth nothing now without a 
promise to give help in war? Would the French Govern- 
ment go even further, and say that the net result of the 
Anglo-French Agreement had been to make things worse 
for France than before, to expose her to a menace from 
Germany, in face of which diplomatic support alone 
was useless, and then to leave her in the lurch? 

My own opinion — perhaps it would be more accurate 
to call it an instinctive feeling rather than considered 
opinion — was, that if Germany forced war on France 
in order to destroy the Anglo-French Agreement, we 
ought to go to the help of France. We should be isolated 
and discredited if we stood aside ; hated by those whom we 
had refused to help, and despised by others. I thought, 
too, that when the time came, if it ever did come, when 
Germany attacked France, public opinion here would 
be so moved that Britain would intervene on the side 
of France. But I was sure that much would depend upon 
how the war came about. If France appeared to be 
aggressive Britain would not help her — of that I felt 
sure — and also that the Cabinet and Parliament would 
not bind themselves by a promise in advance. Therefore 
I considered it would be both useless to expect and 
unreasonable for me to ask the Cabinet to authorize me 
to give any promise. When M. Cambon repeated his 
question the answer must be that we could give no 
promise; nothing must be said by me that would entitle 
the French Government to say that they thought they 
might count on anything more than diplomatic support. 
On the other hand, to say that under no circumstances 
must France even hope for our armed intervention would 
not be in accordance with British feeling or with the 
facts. This was the situation that would have to be 


7 6 

handled in conversation when M. Cambon repeated his 
“question” after the Elections were over. 

Meanwhile the Election went on. My own poll was 
declared on Thursday, January 25, the next day my wife 
and I went to London; thence on Saturday till Monday 
to Windsor Castle ; on Tuesday my wife went to Fallodon, 
and on Thursday, January 31, the critical conversation 
with M. Cambon took place. It is recorded in a despatch 
to Lord Bertie as follows: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F . Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

January 31, 1906. 

Sir, — The French Ambassador asked me again to-day whether France 
would be able to count upon the assistance of England in the event of 
an attack upon her by Germany. 

I said that I had spoken on the subj’ect to the Prime Minister and 
discussed it with him, and that I had three observations to submit. 

In the first place, since the Ambassador had spoken to me a good 
deal of progress has been made. Our military and naval authorities 
had been in communication with the French, and I assumed that all 
preparations were ready, so that, if a crisis arose, no time would have 
been lost for want of a formal engagement. 

In the second place, a week or more before Monsieur Cambon had 
spoken to me, I had taken an opportunity of expressing to Count 
Metternich my personal opinion, which I understood Lord Lansdowne 
had also expressed to him as a personal opinion, that, in the event of 
an attack upon France by Germany arising out of our Morocco Agree- 
ment, public feeling in England would be so strong that no British 
Government could remain neutral. I urged upon Monsieur Cambon 
that this, which I had reason to know had been correctly reported at 
Berlin, had produced there the moral effect which Monsieur Cambon 
had urged upon me as being one of the great securities of peace and 
the main reason for a formal engagement between England and France 
with regard to armed co-operation. 

In the third place, I pointed out to Monsieur Cambon that at 
present French policy in Morocco, within the four corners of the 


Declaration exchanged between us, was absolutely free, that we did 
not question it, that we suggested no concessions and no alterations 
in it, that we left France a free hand and gave unreservedly our 
diplomatic support on which she could count; but that, should our 
promise extend beyond diplomatic support, and should we make an 
engagement which might involve us in a war, I was sure my colleagues 
would say that we must from that time be consulted with regard to 
French policy in Morocco, and, if need be, be free to press upon the 
French Governments concessions or alterations of their policy which 
might seem to us desirable to avoid a war. 

I asked Monsieur Cambon to weigh these considerations in his mind, 
and to consider whether the present situation as regards ourselves and 
France was not so satisfactory that it was unnecessary to alter it by a 
formal declaration as he desired. 

Monsieur Cambon said that in Morocco, if the Conference broke up 
without favourable result, Germany might place herself behind the 
Sultan and acquire more and more influence, that trouble might be 
stirred up on the Algerian frontier, that France might be obliged to 
take measures to deal with it as she had done before, and that Germany 
might announce to France, as she had already once done, that an 
aggression on Morocco would be an attack upon her, and would be 
replied to accordingly. In such an event war might arise so suddenly 
that the need for action would be a question not of days, but of minutes, 
and that, if it was necessary for the British Government to consult, 
and to wait for manifestations of English public opinion, it might be 
too late to be of use. He eventually repeated his request for some form 
of assurance which might be g ven in conversation. I said that an 
assurance of that kind could be nothing short of a solemn undertaking. 
It was one which I could not give without submitting it to the Cabinet 
and getting their authority, and that were I to submit the question 
to the Cabinet I was sure that they would say that this was too serious 
a matter to be dealt with by a verbal engagement but must be put in 
writing. As far as their good disposition towards France was concerned, 
I should have no hesitation in submitting such a question to the present 
Cabinet. Some of those in the Cabinet who were most attached to 
peace were those also who were the best friends of France; but, though 
I had no doubt about the good disposition of the Cabinet, I did think 
there would be difficulties in putting such an undertaking in writing. 
It could not be given unconditionally, and it would be difficult to describe 



the conditions. It amounted, in fact, to this; that, if any change was 
made, it must be to change the “Entente” into a defensive alliance. 
That was a great and formal change, and I again submitted to Monsieur 
Cambon as to whether the force of circumstances bringing England and 
France together was not stronger than any assurance in words which 
could be given at this moment. I said that it might be that the pressure 
of circumstances — the activity of Germany, for instance — might even- 
tually transform the “Entente” into a defensive alliance between our- 
selves and France, but I did not think that the pressure of circumstances 
was so great as to demonstrate the necessity of such a change yet. I 
told him also that, should such a defensive alliance be formed, it was 
too serious a matter to be kept secret from Parliament. The Govern- 
ment could conclude it without the assent of Parliament, but it would 
have to be published afterwards. No British Government could commit 
the country to such a serious thing and keep the engagement secret. 

Monsieur Cambon, in summing up what I had said, dwelt upon the 
fact that I had expressed my personal opinion that, in the event of an 
attack by Germany upon France, no British Government could remain 
neutral. I said that I had used this expression to Count Metternich 
first, and not to him, because, supposing it appeared that I had over- 
estimated the strength of feeling of my countrymen, there could be no 
disappointment in Germany; but I could not express so decidedly my 
personal opinion to France, because a personal opinion was not a thing 
upon which, in so serious a matter, a policy could be founded. In 
speaking to him, therefore, I must keep well within the mark. Much 
would depend as to the manner in which the war broke out between 
Germany and France. I did not think people in England would be 
prepared to fight in order to put France in possession of Morocco. They 
would say that France should wait for opportunities and be content 
to take time, and that it was unreasonable to hurry matters to the point 
of war. But if, on the other hand, it appeared that the war was forced 
upon France by Germany to break up the Anglo-French “Entente,” 
public opinion would undoubtedly be very strong on the side of France. 
At the same time, Monsieur Cambon must remember that England 
at the present moment would be most reluctant to find herself engaged 
in a great war, and I hesitated to express a decided opinion as to 
whether the strong feeling of the Press and of public opinion on the 
side of France would be strong enough to overcome the great reluctance 
which existed amongst us now to find ourselves involved in war. I 

Photograph by Lafayette, Ltd . 

French Ambassador in London, 1898-1921 



asked Monsieur Cambon, however, to bear in mind that, if the French 
Government desired it, it would be possible at any time to re-open 
the conversation. Events might change, but, as things were at present, 
I did not think it was necessary to press the question of a defensive 

Monsieur Cambon said the question was very grave and serious, 
because the German Emperor had given the French Government to 
understand that they could not rely upon us, and it was very important 
to them to feel that they could. — I am, with great truth and respect, 
sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient, humble servant, 

E. Grey. 

It seems to me now, as it did then, that the line taken 
in this conversation was the only one that it was possible 
for a British Minister to take at that time. No one could 
then have pledged this country in advance to go to war 
on behalf of France; on the other hand, to say that under 
no circumstances should we do so would have been untrue 
and therefore wantonly impolitic. Whether the line 
taken might have been better expressed or the situation 
more skilfully handled, is a subsidiary question that may 
be left to others to judge. I was not confident about that. 
My own feeling about it at the time is expressed in a 
letter that I wrote to my wife the next day. Here is the 
extract that refers to this conversation: “I had tremen- 
dously difficult talk and work yesterday, and very 
important. I do not know that I did well, but I did 
honestly.” It has been necessary to dwell on this con- 
versation at length, because it defines the position that 
was maintained up to the very outbreak of war. From 
time to time the same question was raised, but never did 
we go a hair’s-breadth beyond the position taken in the 
conversation with M. Cambon on January 31, 1906. In 
April 1914, at the request of the French, it was agreed to 
let conversations take place between British and Russian 



naval authorities, as will be told later bn, but it was on 
the same explicit understanding (recorded by that time 
in writing in letters exchanged between the French 
Ambassador and myself in 1912) that no obligation was 

The record of the following conversation with the 
German Ambassador shows what was said to him at this 
critical time. It contains a statement of what I believed 
to be the state of British feeling at this period. In this 
it agrees with what was said to the French Ambassador 
as to the prospect of our siding with France in the event 
of war: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir Frank Las cell es 

Foreign Office, 

January 9, 1906. 

Sir, — I told the German Ambassador on the 3rd instant that, since 
we last had a conversation on the subject, I had been giving further 
attention to the question of Morocco, and that I felt uneasy as to the 
situation. I had noticed that a little time ago Prince Biilow had de- 
scribed the question as tres mauvaise . I had also heard that Lord 
Lansdowne had said to Count Metternich that, in the event of war 
between Germany and France, public feeling in England would be 
such that, in his opinion, it would be impossible for England to remain 
neutral. Count Metternich said that Lord Lansdowne said that it 
would be so in the event of an unprovoked attack by Germany on 
France, and that of course the question of what was unprovoked was 
one of interpretation. 

I said that we did not intend to make trouble at the Morocco 
Conference. We wanted to avoid trouble between Germany and 
France, because I really thought that, if there was trouble, we should 
be involved in it. Public feeling here would be exceedingly strong, 
not from hostility to Germany, but rather because it had been a great 
relief and satisfaction to the English public to find themselves on good 
terms with France, and if France got into difficulties arising out of the 
very document which had been the foundation of the good feeling 


between us and France, sympathy with the French would be exceedingly 

Count Metternich restated again emphatically the German point of 
view, which was that we and the French had no right to dispose of the 
interests of a third party in Morocco, however we might deal with 
our own. I said that we had undertaken distinct engagements to give 
diplomatic support to France for the purposes of the Agreement — the 
engagements which were published in Article IX. Count Metternich 
observed that all we had promised was diplomatic support, and that 
what Germany resented was that public opinion in England spoke as 
if armed support had been promised. I said that I could only speak on 
such a matter as a private individual, my opinion being worth no more 
than that of Lord Lansdowne speaking in the same way, but the opinion 
was the same. It was not a question of the policy of the Government; 
what made a nation most likely to take part in war was not policy or 
interest, but sentiment, and, if the circumstances arose, public feeling 
in England would be so strong that it would be impossible to be neutral. 

Count Metternich said that Germany felt herself too strong a nation 
and in too strong a position to be overawed by a combination even of 
two other Great Powers. I said I understood that, but I was speaking 
frankly now because such a contingency had not arisen, and therefore 
it was possible now to talk frankly, whereas at a later date, if things 
became very difficult, he might be much less willing to listen and I 
might be unable to speak freely. “But,” I said, “if things go well at 
the Morocco Conference, you may be sure of this, that the Anglo- 
French ‘Entente’ will not be used afterwards to prejudice the general 
interests or the policy of Germany. We desire to see France on good 
terms with Germany. This is the one thing necessary to complete the 
comfort of our own friendship with France, and we shall certainly not 
‘egg on’ France at the Conference further than she wishes herself to 
go.” I said this because Count Metternich had told me the other day 
that he considered that the British Government had been “more French 
than the French.” He said he entirely believed now that we were not 
more French than the French, and that what I had said represented 
our real attitude. I said that it really was so, and that our diplomacy 
was perfectly open and frank. We had gone to a certain point in our 
engagements with France, from which we could not think of receding. 
We must keep those engagements, but if the keeping of those engage- 
ments proved, at the Conference, to be compatible with Germany’s 


view of her own interests, there would be a sensible amelioration imme- 
diately in English public opinion. 

We spoke of the tone of the Press both in England and in Germany. 
Count Metternich complained of a recrudescence of a bad tone in 
our Press, and its mis-statements. I said that we could not control 
our Press and that we were not inspiring it, and if I were to say any- 
thing in public now to promote a better tone I should at once be told 
by the Press that this was all very well, but that they must wait till 
the Morocco Conference took place before they could accept my view. 
On the other hand, if things went well at the Conference, it would be 
possible afterwards for anyone in my position to speak in a friendly 
tone with effect. 

We had some conversation on the details of the Conference. Count 
Metternich said that Germany could not content herself simply with 
guarantees for her economic interests, because such guarantees would 
be worthless if France really had the control of affairs in Morocco. 
German commerce would then suffer, as foreign commerce had suffered 
in Tunis and in Madagascar. I said that there were guarantees for 
the open door in Morocco which did not exist in the cases of Tunis 
and Madagascar. Count Metternich said that that would not be 
enough. If French influence was supreme in Morocco, concessions and 
so forth would be entirely in French hands. I said I understood that 
there was to be a State Bank for Morocco, and that the French had 
already agreed to German participation in the Bank, and surely that 
in itself was a certain guarantee. 

Beyond general statements that Germany could not allow France a 
special position in Morocco, Count Metternich gave me no idea of 
what the proposals of Germany were likely to be or of her attitude at 
the Conference. — I am, with great truth and respect, sir, Your Excel- 
lency’s most obedient, humble servant, 

E. Grey. 

My object in these interviews was to make the Ger- 
mans understand that the situation was serious, and let the 
French feel that we were sympathetic, while carefully 
avoiding anything that might raise expectations in their 
minds which this country might not fulfil. To do this it 


was necessary to avoid bluff in the one case and promises 
in the other. 

Campbell-Bannerman was apprehensive lest the mili- 
tary conversation should create an obligation or at least 
an “honourable understanding.” His view is expressed 
in a letter to Lord Ripon printed in The Life of Sir 
Henry Campbell-Bannerman , vol. ii, p. 257. With more 
experience I might have shared that apprehension at the 
time. But the honourable understanding between myself 
and M. Cambon was very clear, and it was that nothing 
that passed between French and British military author- 
ities was to entail or imply any obligation whatever on 
either Government. It was an understanding that was 
honourably kept, even in the week of anxiety and distress 
before the outbreak of war in 1914. In that week the 
most pressing appeals were made to us to promise help, 
but not once in all the arguments used to me did either 
the French or Russian Government or their Ambassadors 
in London say or imply that we were under any obliga- 
tion of any kind. The appeal was made to our interest; 
it was never suggested that our honour or good faith 
were involved. 

There has been much criticism of the line we took. It 
has been urged that we ought to have given France a 
definite promise of support, if not in 1906, at any rate 
at some time before the war came ; that we ought to have 
made greater preparation for war. Others contend that 
even the non-committal preparation that we did make 
was improper and impolitic. These criticisms will all be 
discussed in later chapters. My chief concern at this 
point is to state the facts, to make clear what was the 
position actually taken by us. 

Another criticism, not of policy, but of procedure, must 


be dealt with here. Ought there not to have been a 
Cabinet, with the whole situation put to it, before my 
conversation with Cambon on January 31? Campbell- 
Bannerman, writing to me on January 21, when the Elec- 
tion was in progress, had asked: “When would you like 
to have a Cabinet? Would 30th, 31st, or 1st do? Would 
you like the answer to the French to be confirmed by a 
Cabinet before it is given?” I have no recollection, and 
no record is found, of my answer to this question. My 
answer now would be that I ought to have asked for a 
Cabinet; in after-years, and with more experience, I 
think there should have been a Cabinet, and I can only 
say by surmise now why there was not. The answer to 
be given to Cambon was to commit us to no obligation 
beyond the diplomatic support to which the Anglo- 
French Agreement publicly committed us. The earliest 
date suggested was January 30; probably no earlier date 
was possible, as the declaration of my poll on January 
25 was by no means the last of the country constituencies. 
The French had been kept waiting long enough for a 
reply. It must be noted too that neither Campbell-Ban- 
nerman nor Ripon, the two men with most experience of 
Cabinets, suggested, after they had the full record of 
conversation with Cambon before them, that a Cabinet 
should be held. The rest of us, with the exception of 
Asquith, had never been in a Cabinet before. That 
Campbell-Bannerman and Ripon considered the record 
of the conversation with Cambon is evident from the 
letter of the former to Ripon, dated February 2, already 
referred to. The question whether the matter should 
have been put before the Cabinet after the answer had 
been given will be dealt with later in relating the discus- 


sion that did take place at the Cabinet in 1912, when the 
matter of military conversations was before it. 

What was the effect of the answer on the French? I 
had been very anxious as to that, when giving it, but as 
will be explained presently, I was summoned home on 
February 1 and did not see Cambon again for some time. 
Campbell-Bannerman saw my private secretary, then 
Louis Mallet, in my absence, and in the same letter of 
February 2 to Ripon writes: “The Secretary says that 

Cambon appears satisfied.” I recollect very distinctly 
the impression that Cambon’s manner gave me of his 
personal opinion in the conversation both of January 10 
and January 31. It was that he himself knew that we 
could not give the promise for which he was instructed 
to ask; that he had prepared the French Government for 
a negative answer, but that they had insisted on his 
putting the question; that he himself considered that the 
utmost to be expected was that we should agree to the 
continuance of the naval and military conversations that 
had been going on, when Lord Lansdowne was at the 
Foreign Office, with the difference that the military con- 
versations should be direct between the two Staffs, as the 
naval conversations already were with Sir John Fisher, 
instead of being carried on through an intermediary. 
Probably, therefore, Cambon was satisfied. That the 
French Government was satisfied is not so probable; but 
more was impossible, and no doubt their Ambassador 
told them so. The prospects of the Algeciras Conference 
became less menacing, and the request for more than 
diplomatic support was not pressed again for some time. 

During this critical period a change took place in the 
Foreign Office. Lord Sanderson, who had been Per- 
manent Under-Secretary for several years, retired, and 



was succeeded by Sir Charles Hardinge, British Am- 
bassador at St. Petersburg. Sanderson had become Under- 
secretary while I was at the Foreign Office from 1892 
to 1895. He welcomed me back in 1905 with a kindness 
that had a touch of the paternal. Patronizing he never 
was — he was too modest a man to patronize anyone ; but 
his long experience and great knowledge gave his opinion 
weight. He was devoted to the work of the Foreign 
Office, and lived for it and in it; he was not prompt to 
initiate policy, but he was wise in counsel and in advice, 
and indefatigable in carrying it out, an admirable drafts- 
man of an important despatch, and an altogether most 
valuable public servant. 

At one of the important conversations with Cambon — 
I suppose the first one, that of January 10 — I had asked 
Sanderson to be present to help me out, if need were, 
with French. He and I sat side by side on the leather 
sofa in the room of the Secretary of State : Cambon in 
an arm-chair opposite to us. The recollection of the 
whole scene is vivid to me. Cambon proceeded to 
develop the views of his Government and to put the ques- 
tion asking for a promise of armed help in the event of 
German aggression. Sanderson felt all the awkwardness 
of the situation; he knew the unsettling consequences of 
not answering the question favourably; he knew that it 
was impossible for me to answer it; one hand was resting 
on his knee, and, as Cambon pressed the French view, 
the hand kept uneasily and restlessly beating up and down 
upon the knee, a movement of which Sanderson no doubt 
was quite unconscious, but which was eloquent of the 
entanglement of the moment. 

My inability to speak French was happily no draw- 
back in conversation with Cambon. I could read French 


easily, but had no practice, and therefore no power of 
expressing myself in it. Cambon’s position respecting 
English was exactly the same. He understood, but could 
not speak it. He spoke his own language so distinctly 
and with such clear pronunciation that every word could 
be visualized when listening to him. To listen to him was 
like reading French. Each of us, therefore, spoke his 
own language, and each understood perfectly. To make 
sure that we did understand we each exchanged the record 
that we had made separately and afterwards of one of 
these early conversations. The comparison of our records 
left no doubt that each of us had followed every word 
spoken. From that time we trusted each other com- 
pletely, and it was never again necessary to compare 
records or to have a third party in the room. All the 
other Ambassadors of the Great Powers spoke English, 
and spoke it well; so that the drawback of my deficiency 
in French was less than I had feared it would be. 

In reviewing the French anxiety for military arrange- 
ments between the British and French Staffs, and our 
own consent to this, it must be borne in mind that Ger- 
many was not inactive on her side. Before my conversa- 
tions with Cambon there were reports of German activity, 
and on January 31, the same day as the important conver- 
sation with Cambon, I had a conversation with Count 
Metternich, reported to Lascelles, our Ambassador at 
Berlin, as follows: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Lascelles 

Foreign Office, 

January 31, 1906. 

SiR, — The German Ambassador spoke to me a week ago about an 
interview with Sir Frederick Maurice which had been published in the 
French papers. I told His Excellency to-day that I had, in consequence 



of his reference to it, read the interview and very much disapproved 
of it, but no doubt he had now got the explanation which had been pub- 
lished in The Times. I said it had occurred to me that some of the 
information which constantly reached me here in connection with the 
German Army, their unusual purchases of material for war, and so 
forth, might account for the way in which Sir Frederick Maurice and 
others discussed the eventuality of war; but I said that I regarded all 
information of this kind as indicating on the part of Germany not 
preparations for war, but precautions, which, in view of the state of 
feeling which existed six months ago, it was quite natural that Germany 
should take, and which were not the least inconsistent with the pacific 
intentions which Count Metternich had assured me were hers. “Prep- 
arations, 1 ” I used in the sense of an intention to attack; “precautions,” 
on the other hand, indicated only the intention to defend. 

Count Metternich said that France also, according to the statements 
which Sir Charles Dilke and others had made, had been strengthening 
her position very much. I said I had no doubt it was true, and that 
also, in view of the state of feeling which had existed a few months 
ago, was a perfectly natural precaution for her to take; but I could 
assure him as long as I remained at the Foreign Office, or indeed 
as long as the present Government remained in office, whatever we 
countenanced would be purely precautions in the sense in which I had 
used the word, and not aggressive preparations. — I am, etc. 

Edward Grey. 

This conversation is worth a little reflection. The 
distinction between preparations made with the inten- 
tion of going to war and precautions against attack is 
a true distinction, clear and definite in the mind of those 
who build up armaments. But it is a distinction that is 
not obvious or certain to others. Bismarck is reported to 
have said, in his years of retirement, that he made three 
wars — the wars being, of course, those against Denmark 
in 1862, Austria in 1866, and France in 1870. The world 
knows, from the revelations about the Ems despatch, that 
the war with France was intended by the German mili- 
tarists; the German armaments were then a preparation 


for making war with France, and not simply a precaution 
against attack by France. Ever since the Bismarckian 
revelations other countries have been entitled to regard 
German armaments with special apprehension. It would 
also follow that Germany would be specially prone to 
regard the intention of other countries in perfecting 
armaments as suspect, for we are all disposed to attribute 
to others motives and views that we have entertained 
ourselves. Each Government, therefore, while resenting 
any suggestion that its own measures are anything more 
than precaution for defence, regards similar measures of 
another Government as preparation to attack. 

The moral is obvious: it is that great armaments lead 
inevitably to war. If there are armaments on one side 
there must be armaments on other sides. While one 
nation arms, other nations cannot tempt it to aggression 
by remaining defenceless. Armaments must have equip- 
ment; armies cannot be of use without strategic railways. 
Each measure taken by one nation is noted and leads to 
counter-measures by others. 

The increase of armaments, that is intended in each 
nation to produce consciousness of strength, and a sense 
of security, does not produce these effects. On the con- 
trary, it produces a consciousness of the strength of other 
nations and a sense of fear. Fear begets suspicion and 
distrust and evil imaginings of all sorts, till each Govern- 
ment feels it would be criminal and a betrayal of its own 
country not to take every precaution, while every Govern- 
ment regards every precaution of every other Govern- 
ment as evidence of hostile intent. At the date of the con- 
versation with Metternich this reflection upon the situa- 
tion would have seemed to me a counsel of despair, an 



unwarranted and culpable pessimism, calculated to 
precipitate a catastrophe that was not inevitable. 

I shall suggest and examine, later on, what more effort 
could have been made by us to avert war in 1914; I shall 
explain how it seemed at the time, and still seems true to 
me, that the military power in Germany chose the time 
and precipitated the war; and that, had there been a real 
will for peace in Germany, there would have been no 
great European War arising out of the Austro-Serbian 
dispute. But, though all this be true, it is not in my 
opinion the real and final account of the origin of the 
Great War. The enormous growth of armaments in 
Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them 
— it was these that made war inevitable. This, it seems 
to me, is the truest reading of history, and the lesson that 
the present should be learning from the past in the 
interest of future peace, the warning to be handed on to 
those who come after us. 

An illustration of the effect of armaments and precau- 
tions on each side of a frontier is to be found in an out- 
burst of the German Emperor to Captain Allenby on 
January 16, 1906. Here is an extract from Captain 
Allenby’s report of the conversation, giving the words 
used by the Emperor : — 

“Here France has spent 200,000,000 francs in the last six months 
in putting her frontier in order, replenishing her ammunition, and 
repairing the fortresses in preparation for the anticipated incursion of 
my troops, while I have not moved a single ammunition-wagon.” 

It was in the preceding months in 1905 that France 
had consented, under German pressure, to the humilia- 
tion of dismissing M. Delcasse. She had felt compelled 
to consent because the German armaments were so much 


more ready for war than her own. The German pressure 
left her no option but to bring her own forces and equip- 
ment up to date. Yet the effect of her doing so on the 
mind of the Emperor in 1906 is as obvious and unfavour- 
able as the effect of the German armaments had been on 
the French mind. 

Though it anticipates my narrative, let me conclude 
the story of the military conversations by briefly relating 
what took place in subsequent years. 

The Algeciras Conference crisis passed; the fact of 
the military conversations was not at that time made 
known to the Cabinet generally, but must subsequently 
have become known to those Ministers who attended 
the Committee of Imperial Defence. Nothing more 
respecting it appears in my papers till 1911. In January 
of that year there seems to have been a Cabinet Committee 
on Foreign Affairs. It consisted of Asquith, Morley, 
Lloyd George, Crewe, Haldane, and myself, but I have 
no recollection of whether this matter of the military 
conversations came before it. 

On April 6, 1911, however, I directed attention to the 
subject in the following letter to Asquith. The despatch 
from Bertie to which the letter refers should be in the 
official archives of the Foreign Office, but search there has 
not been able to identify it. The letter is taken from a 
copy found in my private papers. 

April 16, 1911. 

My dear Asquith, — Please look at Bertie’s despatch of April 13. 
I have marked it for you, Morley, or Haldane, and I would suggest 
that, as soon as Haldane returns, that you and Morley should have a 
talk with him. 

Early in 1906 the French said to us, “Will you help us if there is 
war with Germany?” 


We said, “We can’t promise, our hands must be free.” 

The French then urged that the military authorities should be allowed 
to exchange views, ours to say what they could do, the French to say 
how they would like it done, if we did side with France. Otherwise, 
as the French urged, even if we detided to support France, on the 
outbreak of war we shouldn’t be able to do it effectively. We agreed 
to this. Up to this point C.-B., R. B. H., and I were cognizant of 
what took place — the rest of you were scattered in the Election. 

The military experts then conversed. What they settled I never 
knew — the position being that the Government was quite free, but that 
the military people knew what to do, if the word was given. 

Unless French war plans have charged, there should be no need of 
anything further, but it is clear we are going to be asked something. 

Yours sincerely, 

E. G. 

In the summer of the same year came the Agadir 
Crisis. There was apprehension lest it should lead to 
war between France and Germany; there was anxiety 
in France to know whether, in that event, Britain would 
give France earnest support. The situation was precisely 
the same as at the time of the Algeciras Conference; we 
fcould give no pledge. But the military conversations 1 
must naturally have been active, and in September 
Asquith wrote to me as follows : 


September 5, 1911. 

My dear Grey, — Conversations such as that between Gen. Joffre 
and Col. Fairholme seem to me rather dangerous; especially the part 
which refers to possible British assistance. The French ought not to 
be encouraged, in present circumstances, to make their plans on any 
assumptions of this kind. Yours always, 

H. H. A. 

To this I replied: 

1 These conversations referred to the question whether the Germans would 
come through Belgium, and to the co-ope ation of the British Expeditionary 


Foreign Office, 

September 8, 1911. 

My dear Asquith, — It would create consternation if we forbade 
our military experts to converse with the French. No doubt these 
conversations and our speeches have given an expectation of support. 
I do not see how that can be helped. 

The news to-day is that the Germans are proceeding leisurely with 
the negotiations, and are shifting the ground from Congo to economic 
concessions in Morocco. Cambon has just been to see me, and on the 
whole thinks well of the prospect. 

To me it looks as if the negotiations were going to enter upon 
exceedingly tedious but not dangerous ground. 

Yours sincerely, 

E. Grey. 

It will be observed that these letters relate, not to a 
general expectation on the part of France that military- 
support would be forthcoming, but to an expectation 
concerned only with the Agadir Crisis, and founded 
partly on the speeches we had made in public with 
reference to that crisis. 

The Agadir affair had thus brought the military con- 
versations into prominence. They must have been 
familiar to several members of the Cabinet in discussion 
at the Imperial Committee of Defence, and in 1912 the 
fact of their taking place became known to other members 
of the Cabinet. Those Ministers who had not been 
directly informed of them were entitled to know exactly 
how we stood with the French. There was no reluctance 
to have the whole matter discussed at the Cabinet. The 
only difficulty arose from the thing having gone on so 
long without the Cabinet generally being informed. 
Ministers who now heard of these military conversations 
for the first time suspected that there was something to 
conceal. If the conversations really did not commit the 


country, as I stated, why should the knowledge of them 
have been withheld? There was a demand that the fact 
of the military conversations being non-committal should 
be put into writing. I had the impression that some 
Ministers, who had not been members of the Committee 
of Defence, expected some demur to this, and were 
suspiciously surprised at the immediate assent to the pro- 
posal given by myself and Asquith. I had made it so 
plain to Cambon that the Government must remain 
absolutely free and uncommitted, that I anticipated no 
difficulty whatever in getting a satisfactory exchange of 
notes with him on behalf of ourselves and the French 
Government. I knew he understood and accepted the 
position, and would make no difficulty; and, if there had 
been any doubt raised, I was prepared to contend that 
the military conversations must stop and not be resumed 
till the condition of them was made clear. I therefore 
agreed, readily and at once, to the proposal that this con- 
dition should be put in writing. 

We proceeded to draft the letter in the Cabinet, and 
again I thought I was conscious of a little surprise that 
words unqualified and explicit were agreed to. The 
letter, as approved by the Cabinet, was signed and given 
by me to Cambon, and I received one in similar terms 
from him in exchange. From that time onwards every 
Minister knew how we stood, and the letters became 
familiar to the public in 1914, but they may be repeated 

Sir Edward Grey to M. Cambon, French Ambassador in London 

Foreign Office, 

November 22, 1912. 

My dear Ambassador, — From time to time in recent years the 
French and British naval and military experts have consulted together. 


It has always been understood that such consultation does not restrict 
the freedom of either Government to decide at any future time whether 
or not to assist the other by armed force. We have agreed that con- 
sultation between experts is not, and ought not to be, regarded as an 
engagement that commits either Government to action in a contingency 
that has not arisen and may never arise. The disposition, for instance, 
of the French and British fleets respectively at the present moment is 
not based upon an engagement to co-operate in war. 

You have, however, pointed out that if either Government had 
grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power it might 
become essential to know whether it could in that event, depend upon 
the armed assistance of the other. 

I agree that, if either Government had grave reason to expect an 
unprovoked attack by a third Power, or something that threatened the 
general peace, it should immediately discuss with the other whether 
both Governments should act together to prevent aggression and to 
preserve peace, and, if so, what measures they would be prepared to 
take in common. If these measures involved action, the plans of the 
general staffs would at once be taken into consideration, and the Gov- 
ernments would then decide what effect should be given to them. 

Yours, etc., 

E. Grey. 

M. Cambon to Sir Edward Grey 
( Translation) 

French Embassy, London, 

November 23, 1912. 

Dear Sir Edward, — You reminded me in your letter of yesterday, 
November 22, that during the last few years the military and naval 
authorities of France and Great Britain had consulted with each other 
from time to time ; that it had always been understood that these consul- 
tations should not restrict the liberty of either Government to decide in 
the future whether they should lend each other the support of their 
armed forces ; that, on either side, these consultations between experts 
were not, and should not be, considered as engagements binding our 
Governments to take action in certain eventualities; that, however, I 
had remarked to you that, if one or other of the two Governments had 
e^rave reason to fear an unprovoked attack on the part of a third Power. 



it would become essential to know whether it could count on the armed 
support of the other. 

Your letter answers that point, and I am authorized to state that, 
in the event of one of our two Governments having grave reason to 
fear either an act of aggression from a third Power, or some event 
threatening the general peace, that Government would immediately 
examine with the other the question whether both Governments should 
act together in order to prevent the act of aggression or preserve peace. 
If so, the two Governments would deliberate as to the measures which 
they would be prepared to take in common ; if those measures involved 
action, the two Governments would take into immediate consideration 
the plans of their General Staffs and would then decide as to the effect 
to be given to those plans. 

Yours, etc., 

Paul Cambon. 

So far as I remember, there was no other matter of 
importance in foreign affairs that was not within the 
cognizance of the Cabinet. 

I have always regretted, however, that the military 
conversations were not brought before the Cabinet at 
once: this would have avoided unnecessary suspicion. 
But it has also been a great satisfaction to me that they 
did come before the Cabinet some two years before we 
were called upon to face the outbreak of war. The 
Cabinet were wise in having the understanding put into 
writing. Cambon and the French Government, with 
their own record of diplomatic conversations before them, 
would never have disputed the point; but to have it in 
writing and signed on both sides made jt quite clear for 
public opinion in Britain and in the outside world, when 
the crisis came in 1914. 




Death of Lady Grey — The Algeciras Conference — British Diplomatic 
Obligations — Mistrust in France — The Testing Case of Casablanca 
— German Operations in Paris — And at St. Petersburg — Reassur- 
ing France — The Strengthening of the Entente — A Letter to 
Campbell-Bannerman — The German Place in the Sun. 

T HOUGH this narrative is in form autobio- 
graphical, it will in substance be confined to what 
is directly or indirectly relevant to politics, and 
more especially to foreign policy. Much that would be 
proper or even essential to autobiography is not touched 
upon or mentioned at all. I come now to a break in my 
life too intimate even for autobiography, and yet with 
such effect on my public work that it must have a place 

On the afternoon of Thursday, February 1, the day 
after the critical conversation with Cambon, a telegram 
was brought to me while I was at the Committee of 
Imperial Defence; it told that my wife had been thrown 
from a carriage while driving near Fallodon and was 
lying unconscious in the village schoolmaster’s cottage, 
close to the place of the accident. I got there that night; 
she never recovered consciousness, and died in the early 
hours of Sunday, February 4. 

It is not possible, in reviewing my work afterwards, 
to look back and say, “Here, if she had lived, I should 
have taken another decision,” or “There I should 
have thought or spoken differently.” But the effect on 




my work, though it cannot be defined and weighed, must 
needs have been very great. 

For twenty years I had had the upholding support, 
inestimable in its value especially to a man in public 
life, of constant companionship at home with one to 
whom nothing small or mean was tolerable. I now lived 
alone; this, in itself, was a change so great that, though it 
was in private life, it was bound to affect character and 
public work. To this must be added a further reflection. 

Through all our married life I had been in the habit 
of discussing public affairs and sharing all thoughts with 
my wife; and she had been interested in discussing these 
with me. Her interests and outlook on life were wide, 
and her opinion on what came before her and on all that 
we talked of was always fresh and independent, some- 
times so original as to penetrate to new aspects and throw 
new light on the subject; never was it commonplace or 
second-hand, never the outcome of conventional or party 
or class thought. All this was now withdrawn from me. 
We had acquired knowledge and shared thought together, 
and developed tastes and pursuits in common. For some 
time, to the one left alone, the past seemed more real 
than the present. Thought was arrested and work was 
crippled. The letter already quoted, written to her about 
my conversation with Cambon, reached Fallodon too late 
to be read by her. If she had lived, the substance of it 
would have been discussed between us. 

I wrote to Campbell-Bannerman saying I was very 
much shaken, and suggesting that I should resign. He 
encouraged me to go on, and after a week the Foreign 
Office work was sent to me at Fallodon. The mechanism 
of the brain began to digest work as that of the body 
digests food ; that is how life continues in such an ordeal 


for a time, but personality seems stunned and work is 
done mechanically. It does not, however, appear, nor 
do I remember, that any important decision was taken 
or required in the interval before I returned to London 
at the opening of Parliament and again took my place 
at the Foreign Office and in the Cabinet. 

In reviewing the transactions that preceded the 
Algeciras Conference, I have already given some account 
of the apprehensions aroused, and of the precautions 
taken. The apprehension of a man so versed in great 
public affairs as Lord Ripon are expressed in a letter to 
Lord Fitzmaurice quoted in the Life of Lord Ripon, 
pages 292-3. The following extract with reference to the 
coming Conference gives one aspect of it that was present 
to our minds: "That a European War should come out 
of the matter seems almost impossible, but when one has 
to deal with a potentate like the German Emperor one 
can feel no real security. One of his principal objects, 
I imagine, is to break down the Entente Cordiale, and 
separate us from France, and I have some fear that he 
may succeed in doing that.” 

Lord Ripon goes on to express the opinion that he 
would decline to go further than the full diplomatic 
support to which we were publicly engaged, and he fore- 
sees that if the Conference broke down and serious trouble 
arose the French people would be disappointed with 
our attitude. 

My own mind was preoccupied by the first stage of 
the Conference; whether more than diplomatic support 
would be required, and if so whether we should give it, 
was a further hypothetical stage that we had not yet 
reached, and with which it was useless to concern myself 
further at the moment. No pledge whatever of armed 


support could, in my opinion, be given; the General 
Staff was not in a position to be ready to give it; but 
Parliament and public opinion alone could decide, when 
the time came, whether it should be given. About this 
there was nothing more to be done or thought yet. 

But the performance of our obligation to give diplo- 
matic support to France was not hypothetical but actual. 
The moment was at hand when that obligation must be 
fulfilled. If it were not fufilled, then the Entente with 
France would disappear; all that had been gained by 
the Anglo-French Agreement would be lost. We should 
be back where we had been in 1892-5, constantly on the 
brink of war with France or Russia or both, and 
dependent for our diplomatic position in the world on 
German good-will. My recollection of the discomforts 
and dangers of that position, when I was inside the 
Foreign Office in those years, was vivid and disagreeable; 
the relief felt at the conclusion of the Anglo-French 
Agreement was very present to my mind. I was 
determined not to slip back into the old quaking bog, but 
to keep on what seemed then the sounder and more whole- 
some ground. There was no thought, in this, of using 
our better relations with France or with Russia against 
Germany; it was hoped that relations with Germany 
would improve. Indeed, the experience of present years 
led some minds in the Foreign Office to consider that our 
relations with Germany would now be better than they 
had been, when German diplomacy was thriving, or at 
any rate looking with satisfaction, on the quarrels of 
Britain with F ranee and Russia, and exploiting the situa- 
tion created thereby. From 1886 up to the making of the 
Anglo-French Agreement in 1904 we had been through 
a very disagreeable experience; our diplomatic position 


had been one of increasing weakness and discomfort, and 
we were determined not to revert to that position again. 
So it was that attacks upon the Entente, as the Anglo- 
French Agreement had now come to be called, tended to 
confirm rather than to weaken it. It was a matter of 
interest to preserve it as well as a point of honour to act 
up to the diplomatic obligations contained in it. 

I was not, however, immediately alive to the delicate 
nature of the situation ; I did not realize the efforts that 
might be made to induce France to suppose that we 
should not act up to our obligations, nor how sensitive the 
French might be on this point and how easily confidence 
might be shaken. I was soon to be enlightened as to the 
difficulty of avoiding distrust in France. In diplomacy 
confidence has very shallow roots, and the Entente with 
France was still young and untried. The critical moment 
came very suddenly. 

The French contention at the Conference was that 
the Moroccan ports should be policed with a force under 
Franco-Spanish auspices; the Germans used Austria to 
put forward a proposal that one port, that of Casablanca, 
should be an exception to this arrangement. France saw 
in this proposal a project for injecting other potential 
influences than that of France and Spain into Morocco: 
she assumed that Casablanca would become a centre of 
German political influence — a German port. If this was 
not the plan, why should Germany be so insistent in 
making Casablanca an exception to what was good 
enough for the other Moroccan ports? 

The French considered the matter vital, and were firm 
in resistance; the German delegate at Algeciras was 
equally firm in insistence. Our diplomatic support was 
pledged to France, and was being given. At this crucial 



moment, when the tension was at the height, there sud- 
denly was circulated a report that we were going to 
abandon the French point of view. One version was that 
Nicolson, the British delegate at Algeciras, had told his 
German colleague there that France ought to give way. 
At Algeciras, in Paris, in St. Petersburg, everywhere, 
we were confronted with this report and with belief in 
it. The thing came with the suddenness of an air-raid, 
though that simile was not then available. The first bomb 
fell on me in the form of a telegram from Bertie that 
reached me one evening in my room at the House of 
Commons. It was to the effect that M. Etienne, a member 
of the French Cabinet, had said to him, “So vou are 
going to abandon us.” 

The assumption that we should throw over our obliga- 
tion under the Anglo-French Agreement stirred me, and 
I wrote an indignant telegram to Bertie in reply, saying 
that we had given support to France throughout the Con- 
ference at Algeciras and in every capital of Europe, when 
requisite, and that we would continue to do so as long 
as the French Government desired it and would place 
reliance on us. 

The proportions that the affair attained in Paris will be 
seen from the following despatch from Bertie. 

Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received March 21) 


March 17, 1906. 

Sir, — By my despatch No. 104, Confidential, of the nth instant, I 
had the honour to report to you the conversation which I had had on 
the previous day with the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the Austrian 
scheme for the policing of the ports of Morocco. 


In the course of my interview with M. Rouvier, he read to me a 
letter from the French Ambassador in London which represented you 
to concur in his idea that the compromise to be offered to Germany 
should be an Inspector-General from one of the minor States for the 
police of all the ports, including Casablanca, which would be policed, 
like the other seven ports, by a force under French or Spanish instructors. 

From the condition of public opinion in France in regard to the 
differences with Germany in the Algeciras Conferences, it was obvious 
that if His Majesty’s Government pressed the French Government to 
give way to the demands of Germany as to Casablanca a very unfor- 
tunate impression would be caused in this country. 

On the 13th instant I telegraphed to you some extracts from the 
Temps newspaper stated to be the instructions to the French Delegate 
confirmed by M. Rouvier before quitting office. As to the police, those 
instructions were stated to be to accept an Inspectorate, provided the 
police were Franco-Spanish, but on no account to admit that such 
Inspectorate should become a co-operation, and to refuse categorically 
to agree that the Inspectors should have the direct command at a port. 

On the afternoon of the 14th instant I had the honour to receive 
your telegram No. 40, stating that, in view of those published instruc- 
tions, you gathered that the French Government thought it impossible 
to make the concession as to the Casablanca police required by Germany, 
and, if so, His Majesty’s Government would, of course, support them, 
that I was to so inform the French Government, and that you would 
make a communication to that effect to M. Cambon. 

I went at once to the Quai d’Orsay and saw M. Louis, the Political 
Director. He told me that the writer of the article in the Temps had 
access to good information, and that the extracts to which I had drawn 
his attention gave the general sense but not the text of the instructions 
to the French delegate. Those instructions had not, he said, been 
altered in any way since they were communicated to you a few days ago. 

The Government of M. Sarrien, which had just been formed, had 
in the Ministerial declaration made to Parliament that (14th) after- 
noon, confirmed the general foreign policy of M. Rouvier’s Govern- 
ment, but had not yet sufficient time to study the details of it as regarded 
Morocco, and M. Bourgeois, who had that very day taken over from 
M. Rouvier the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, would probably require 
some twenty-four or forty-eight hours’ time before coming to a decision 


as to what further instructions, if any, should be sent to the French 
delegate at Algeciras. He would be very grateful for the message from 
you which I had just read, and which would be communicated without 
loss of time to M. Bourgeois. 

At a party at the German Embassy that (14th) evening I met the 
Minister of War. He told me that matters were going badly at 

Algeciras, as it appeared that England was not going to continue her 

support to France. 

I replied that if the French Government were resolved not to accept 
the Austrian proposal about Casablanca His Majesty’s Government 
would continue to support French views in the Conference as hereto- 

M. fitienne observed that he was glad to hear it, for he had been 
given to understand that such was not the case. To this I answered 

that, by your direction, I had given such an assurance to the Ministry 

for Foreign Affairs. 

In the middle of the day of the 15th instant M. Crozier, French 
Minister at Copenhagen, who is an intimate friend of M. Bourgeois, 
came to see Mr. Lister, whom he knew at Copenhagen. M. Crozier 
said that he had had a long interview with M. Bourgeois on the 14th 
instant, and, from what I gathered from the Minister for Foreign 
Affairs the next evening (15th), he had commissioned M. Crozier to 
see Mr. Lister. The purport of what M. Crozier said was that several 
influential and competent members of the French Parliament had, when 
the Government was being constituted, endeavoured to persuade M. 
Bourgeois that the policy of England under the Government of His 
Majesty’s present advisers, in view of the change of Government in 
France, would be to withdraw from any active part in continental politics 
and to adopt a policy of isolation. They maintained that the advice 
given to the French Delegate at Algeciras by Sir A. Nicolson as to the 
Austrian police scheme was a first indication of their intention to with- 
draw as soon as possible from supporting French policy. 

M. Crozier stated that M. Bourgeois, not being acquainted with 
the details of recent events, was in a very anxious state, and could not 
make up his mind whether to believe or to discredit the representations 
which had been made to him. When M. Bourgeois commissioned M. 
Crozier to make this communication to Mr. Lister he had not received 
your message of the 14th, for which, as I informed you by telegram 


No. 27 of the 15th instant, he requested me, when I met him that 
evening at the filysee, to thank you most cordially, and to say that it 
had arrived at a critical moment, was most opportune, and 
had been made use of with excellent effect. I suppose, from what M. 
Clemenceau, the new Minister of the Interior, had said to me, which 
I am about to relate, that M. Bourgeois had in mind some doubting 
colleagues. M. Clemenceau, with whom I have been acquainted for 
some time, had paid me a visit late in the afternoon. He professes 
Anglophil tendencies, and has in his paper, the Aurore , been a strong 
advocate of a policy of intimate relations between France and England. 

M. Clemenceau, who was accompanied by the Under-Secretary of 
the Ministry of the Interior, said that at the Cabinet Council on the 
14th instant doubts had been raised as to the fidelity of England to 
France. She had been suspected of making some arrangement with 
Germany behind France’s back, and Sir A. Nicolson’s advice to the 
French delegate about Casablanca had been quoted as a proof of it. 
]\d. Clemenceau had, he asserted, been the only one at first to combat 
the supposition. He had said that he was sure that the advice as to 
Casablanca had been given under a misapprehension. He was glad to 
find from your message, which had reached M. Bourgeois after the 
Ministerial Council, that his conviction that England was not going 
to desert France had been proved to be true. 

On the receipt of your telegram of the 16th instant, I called on M. 
Bourgeois, M. Clemenceau, and M. fitienne. I told them that you 
had authorized me to say that cordial co-operation with France in all 
parts of the world is a cardinal point of British policy, and that there 
had never been any question on the part of His Majesty’s Government 
of discontinuing their support of France in the questions under dis- 
cussion at Algeciras. That support had been given throughout the 
Conference and in every capital of Europe where requisite, and the same 
course would be continued, if the French Government desired it, and 
would place reliance in His Majesty’s Government. 

Sir Arthur Nicolson had given advice freely to M. Revoil in the 
confident expectation that his French colleague would well understand 
that the British delegate would continue to support him in the Con- 
ference; that in the observations made by you in conversation with the 
French Ambassador you had spoken in the same expectation, and you 
had no doubt that M. Cambon so understood and reported them. 


M. Bourgeois, M. Clemenceau, and M. fitienne said that they were 
quite reassured. 

M. Bourgeois told me, in the strictest confidence, that the Austro- 
Hungarian Ambassador had called on him on the 15th instant and 
asked him unofficially, but no doubt under instructions from his Govern- 
ment, sent with the concurrence of the German Government, whether 
some means might not be devised to get out of the impasse about 

M. Bourgeois had, he said, told Count Khevenhuller that France 
could not accept the Austrian scheme on that point. 

The Ambassador had then enquired whether some compromise might 
not be come to by which Germany would be compensated for a con- 
cession in regard to the Casablanca police question by some stipulation 
in regard to the bank. 

M. Bourgeois had, he stated, replied that if the Austro-Hungarian 
Government would suggest at the Conference a scheme for a compromise 
the French Government would be happy to consider it, and M. Bour- 
geois is hopeful that some proposal will be made by the Austro-Hun- 
garian Government which may be found acceptable by the French 

I have good reason to know that what alarmed the new French 
Cabinet was that when M. Revoil telegraphed the opinion of Sir 
Arthur Nicolson in regard to Casablanca he said that he supposed that 
it represented the views of His Majesty’s Government, and denoted 
a change of policy on their part. The reports from the French Am- 
bassador in London were also considered as indicating a tendency on 
the part of His Majesty’s Government to regard the Austro-German 
proposals as being great concessions on the part of the German Govern- 
ment, and as such ought to be accepted by the French Government 
rather than allow the Conference to close without a settlement. 

At the same time reports were being spread in Parliamentary circles 
here that England was likely to come to some arrangement with Ger- 
many, or perhaps had already done so. I know that some members 
of the new Government were disposed to think that there might be 
truth in this insinuation, and for the following reason: On April 25 

last I had, by direction of the Secretary of State, spoken to M. Delcasse 
on the subject of a desire attributed to Germany to obtain a port on 
the coast of Morocco (see my despatch No. 156, Confidential, of April 


25), and I had said that if the German Government asked for a port 
His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to join the French Gov- 
ernment in offering strong opposition to such a proposal (“Pour s’opposer 
fortement a une telle proposition”) , and then begged that if the question 
were raised M. Delcasse would give full opportunity to His Majesty’s 
Government to concert with the French Government as to the measures 
which might be taken to meet it (“les mesures qui pourraient etre 
prises pour aller a Tencontre de cette demande”). 

The advice given to the French Government that they should in the 
last resort accept the Austro-German proposal for the police of Casa- 
blanca rather than break up the Conference was regarded as inconsistent 
with the communication to M. Delcasse, which I have quoted, for it is 
thought here that Casablanca might be converted into a useful port, 
and in German hands would be a danger to France, and the establish- 
ment at that port of a police force under a Swiss Inspector and Swiss 
instructors would be a step towards its occupation in some form by 
Germany at the first convenient opportunity, and that it is with such 
a view that the German Government have persisted in the stipulation 
that it should not be policed by a force under French or Spanish 

It is unfortunate that Frenchmen of education and position should be 
found ready to believe imputations against England of bad faith, but 
the hereditary distrust of our country, which has for so long been a 
characteristic of the French race, has been ably worked on by persons 
acting in the interests of Germany in order to create discord between 
France and England. — I have, etc., 

Francis Bertie. 

There was the same scene at St. Petersburg, and the 
following letter from Cecil Spring-Rice to the Russian 
Foreign Minister shows the trouble we had there: 

Mr. Spring-Rice to Count Lamsdorff 
(Personnelle et Confidentielle) 


le 4 (17) Mars, 1906. 

M e le Comte, Je tiens a faire part a votre Excellence des faits 
suivants : 

L’Ambassadeur d’Allemagne a Londres, en appuyant aupres de Sir 



Edward Grey la derniere proposition Allemande au sujet du Maroc, 
avait dit que meme Sir A. Nicolson, en conversation avec son collegue 
Allemand avait exprime Topinion que la France devrait ceder. Sir 
Edward Grey a tout de suit telegraphie cette information a Sir A. 
Nicolson, qui a repondu: “Je na’ai dit au Delegue Allemand ni 

directement ni indirectement que la France devrait ceder sur quelque 
point que ce soit des questions encore en discussion.” 

En me faisant part de la reponse de Sir A. Nicolson, Sir Edward 
Grey a ajoute textuellement : “Le Gouvernement de Sa Majeste 

Britannique continuera certainement a appuyer la France a la Con- 
ference du Maroc.” 

J’espere qu’il n’y a pas besoin d’ajouter que l’Angleterre, comme la 
Russie, fera tout son possible, dans les limites indiquees pour faciliter 
une solution. 

J’ai cru utile de communiquer a votre Excellence, a titre prive, le 
telegramme de Sir Edward Grey, en vue des bruits qui seraient en 
cours ici au sujet de Tattitude de Sir A. Nicolson a la Conference, qui 
ressemblent beaucoup a Tassertion ci-dessus mentionnee. 

These reports were attributed to German sources. This 
did not surprise me, and left me cold. The Germans did 
not fear our Entente with France, or seriously think it 
a menace to them, but they disliked it: it had suited them 
that we should be on bad terms with France; it did not 
suit them that there should be an Entente. It was their 
game to sow distrust, if they could. A poor game, judged 
by ideal standards, but one that they were to be expected 
to play. To be surprised that a foreign Government did 
not raise its foreign policy to an ideal plane was to shut 
one’s eyes to patent facts and practice; to be indignant 
about it was to beat the air. The German manoeuvres 
therefore roused in me neither surprise nor indignation. 
But, if it were the German game to sow distrust between 
France and ourselves, it was equally clear that our game 
was to be loyal to each other, and I did resent the levity 
and ease with which France assumed that we should not 


play the game. It was diplomatic support only that 
was in question now, and the very frankness with which 
we had explained why we could not promise in advance 
armed support, to which we were not pledged, might have 
been taken by the French as evidence that we should give 
the diplomatic support to which we were pledged. How 
could any good take root in such shifting sands of sus- 
picion and distrust? 

However, the crisis passed; the Germans gave way 
about Casablanca, the Algeciras Conference came to a 
peaceable end, and the Anglo-French Entente survived all 
the perils of it. The net result of all the German effort, 
first in 1905, when Lansdowne, the author of the Entente, 
was still in office, and then in 1906, when a Liberal Gov- 
ernment had succeeded, was to make the Entente stronger. 
We had been forced to contemplate the contingency that 
the Entente might have to fight for its life; we had, with- 
out making any alliance or new obligation, concerted 
measures to meet that contingency, if it were suddenly 
thrust upon us; and diplomatically the French trusted 
us more, and not less, after the Algeciras Conference than 
they had done before it. 

As one looks about, and sees all the perils that there 
were, how little belief nations have in each other, how 
prone they are to disbelieve and to suspect it, it seems 
almost a miracle that the Entente survived. One false 
step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word 
delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result 
might have been fatal. I was at any rate more alive to the 
delicacy of the situation at the end of the Conference than 
I had been at the beginning. 

There was more delicate ground to be passed over be- 
fore this year ended. 


The wind of armed German pressure, though it had 
swept M. Delcasse out of the Foreign Office in 1905, had 
in the long run only caused France to draw the cloak of 
the Entente with Britain more closely about her. The sun 
of German cordiality was now to try what it could do. 
The sun shone, however, not on Paris, but on London. 
Friendly visits from German pressmen and from German 
burgomasters came, and were all well received. This 
was well enough, but not without anxiety. There was 
always the risk that these friendly demonstrations, desir- 
able if made without arriere pensee, might be represented 
and used at Paris to create distrust. My own relations 
with Count Metternich, the German Ambassador, were 
frank and cordial, and after the Algeciras Conference 
was over there was little to cause friction or difficulty 
in our dealings with the German Government. If the 
Germans would only let well alone, what was now well 
would continue and get still better. Unfortunately, the 
German Government would try to improve the occasion 
in ways that made it difficult for us. The following 
despatch to Paris shows how this was done : 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

July 9, 1906. 

Sir, — The French Minister told me to-day that Prince Radolin had 
been to see M. Bourgeois, and had said to him that an entente was 
proceeding between Germany and England. Prince Radolin wished the 
French Government to know that this entente was in no way intended 
to impair the relations between France and England, and he hoped, 
therefore, it would not be disagreeable to France. M. Bourgeois had 
asked whether Prince Radolin had been instructed by the German Gov- 
ernment to make this communication, and had been answered in the 


The French Minister showed me a note of the conversation which 
M. Bourgeois had sent him, in which it appeared that Prince Radolin 
had not actually spoken of an entente , but only of a rapprochement . 

M. Bourgeois had replied that, as regards relations between England 
and Germany, that it was something with which it was not for the 
French Government to interfere, and that, on the general question of 
understandings which were intended to make for peace, M. Bourgeois 
was of course a friend of peace, and favourably disposed to anything 
which would promote it. 

M. Bourgeois had, however, been surprised at receiving a communi- 
cation of this kind in such a formal way, and had instructed the French 
Minister to tell me about it. 

I said I was equally surprised that such a communication should have 
been made by the German Ambassador at Paris on the instructions of 
the German Government. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in 
the nature of an entente between the two countries, nor was there any- 
thing out of which an entente might be made. At present, there was 
nothing to discuss between the two Governments, except the trouble on 
the German South-West African frontier, an insignificant boundary 
question in some other part of Africa, and the German Concession in 
Madeira, as to which I had some time ago explained to the German 
Ambassador why we opposed it. In fact, I regarded the relations 
between England and Germany as being now normal, and I saw no 
reason for saying anything about them. 

It would, I thought, be inconvenient for France that we should be 
on bad terms with Germany, just as it would be inconvenient for us 
that France should be on bad terms with Germany; for if we were 
called on to take sides, we must take sides with France, as at Algeciras. 
As long, however, as Germany kept quiet, there was no reason for 
trouble and things would go on quietly. 

The French Minister asked me whether I thought Prince Radolin’s 
communication was connected with the visit of the King to Germany. 

I said the King was going to pass through Germany on his way to 
Marienbad, and, as the German Emperor was a near relation, the 
King could not go through the Emperor’s country every year without 
seeing him. But I did not think this could have been the reason for 
Prince Radolin s communication. All I could suggest was that a great 
deal of attention had been paid to us from Germany of late. We had 


received visits from German burgomasters, German artists, and, lastly, 
German editors. Many people had attended meetings at which the 
visitors had been received, and they made very friendly speeches. But, 
as Germany seemed to be forcing the pace so much, some things had 
been said in conversation during the German editors* visit to the effect 
that, if Germany wished any good to come of her being civil to us, she 
must show some corresponding civility in Paris. I also called the 
French Minister’s attention to what I had said in Parliament to the 
effect that our good relations with France must not be impaired, and 
any developments in our foreign policy must be such as not to prejudice 
them. I did not meet the German editors when they were here. But 
it was very likely that things of this kind had been said by others who 
had met them. These things had probably been reported to the German 
Embassy here, and thence to Berlin, and Prince Radolin’s communica- 
tion might be an outcome of them. Otherwise, I could throw no light 
whatever on this communication. 

The only thing of which the Germans had complained for some time 
past had been the tone of the English Press. We had always answered 
this complaint by pointing out that the German Press was at least as 
bad. There had lately been a tendency on the part of the Press of both 
countries to write in a better tone about each other, or to leave each 
other alone, and that was the only thing that had so far happened in 
the form of a rapprochement . 

There was nothing new proceeding between the two Governments. 

I think it desirable that you should explain this in conversation to 
M. Bourgeois, and should assure him that we have said nothing hitherto 
to him about our relations with Germany because there is nothing to 
tell, and my statement in Parliament was intended to convey that 
civilities and hospitality, which are promoted here by independent persons 
in no way connected with the Government, do not imply any present 
or future change of policy. — I am, etc., 

Edward Grey. 

The effect of such a step taken by the German Govern- 
ment at Paris was obvious. My desire was that things 
should go well in relations with Germany, but, to avoid 
distrust, it was necessary to keep French Ministers in- 
formed so that they might know certainly that nothing 


was being done by us that meant a change of policy or a 
double policy. The effect of the German communication 
at Paris must inevitably be to make the French Govern- 
ment suspect that something was going on behind their 
backs, in which we were concerned, and which I was 
keeping from them. 

Later in the summer King Edward went to Marienbad, 
and on his journey very naturally saw the German Em- 
peror. Haldane, our Minister for War, was also on the 
Continent, and was invited and went to Berlin. On such 
occasions it was explained to the French that they must 
not suppose that these friendly visits had any new political 
significance. We should enter into no engagements that 
were inconsistent with the Entente, and France must 
realize that, as long as this condition was observed, it 
was to her interest that our relations with Germany should 
be good. One difficult moment there was when it was 
discovered that the invitation to Haldane was for a date 
that coincided with the anniversary of the battle of Sedan 
and would entail his presence at the commemoration of 
that event. This incidental fact had not been mentioned 
by the Germans when the invitation was given; when it 
was discovered, arrangements were made to avoid any 
appearance of an anti-French character in the visit, and 
it took place without any of the untoward results that had 
been apprehended in the Foreign Office. This was not 
the last of delicate incidents of the kind. One by one, 
they had to be negotiated and adjusted as they arose. 
When one looks back on them, they produce a sense of 
distaste and weariness. 

How much and how little I then understood of this 
whole situation appears in the following letter written 
to Campbell-Bannerman on January 9: 


Sir Edward Grey to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman 

Foreign Office, 

January 9, 1 906. 

My dear Sir Henry, — It is unfortunate that the Election clashes 
with the approach and meeting of the Morocco Conference, for I 
should like to have been in more frequent communication with you. 
But this cannot be helped. All that was passed has been sent to you, 
but I may sum it up as follows: 

With the French, matters stand as Lord Lansdowne left them. I 
have promised diplomatic support in accordance with Article IX, and 
have let it be known at Madrid and Rome that we shall give this. I 
have not said a word of anything more, and the French have asked no 
inconvenient questions. 

To the German Ambassador here I have given it as a personal opinion 
that feeling in England and sympathy for France, if she got into trouble 
over the document which originated our friendship with her, would be 
so strong that it would be impossible for any Government to remain 
neutral. In margin (“Lansdowne, I find, had also said as much ). 

But on behalf of the Government I have said that we shall not use 
the Anglo-French Entente against German policy or interests; that 
though at the Conference we must keep our public engagement to 
France, we shall not egg on France against Germany; and that if things 
go smoothly at the Conference it will be possible to use our influence 
with effect to ameliorate the tone of the Press and public opinion here 
respecting Germany. Also that we wish to improve relations between 
France and Germany. 

In more than one part of the world I find signs that Germany is 
feeling after a coaling station or a port. Everywhere we block this. 
I am not an expert in naval strategy, but I doubt whether it is important 
to us to prevent Germany getting ports at a distance from her base ; 
and the moment may come when a timely admission that it is not a 
cardinal object of British policy to prevent her having such a port may 
have a great pacific effect. It may, for instance, turn out that a port 
for Germany on the west Atlantic coast of Morocco would solve all 
the difficulties of the Morocco Conference and be regarded by the 
French as a means of obtaining the recognition which they want in 
Morocco without prejudicing their interests in the long run. I cannot 
yet say that this is likely to be so, but in view of possibilities I should 


like to know what is the real opinion of the Admiralty or Defence 
Committee on such a point. The concession of a port to Germany is 
a card which might any day take a valuable trick in diplomacy, and 
the S. of S. for Foreign Affairs ought to know whether it is a card 
which it is not inconsistent with British interests for him to play. 
Hitherto it has been assumed that all the efforts of British diplomacy 
must be used to prevent Germany getting a port anywhere. 

Indications keep trickling in that Germany is preparing for war in 
the spring; France is very apprehensive. I do not think there will be 
war: I believe the steps taken imply precautions, but not intentions. 

But the War Office ought, it seems to me, to be ready to answer the 
question, what could they do if we had to take part against Germany, 
if, for instance, the neutrality of Belgium was violated. Fisher, of 
course, is prepared to answer the question for the Admiralty at any 
moment, but that only means driving the German fleet to anchor in 
Kiel and stay there. 

At present I am in no difficulty as to what to say or do, but I am 
apprehensive of what may happen at the Conference when I may have 
to ask for a decision at a critical moment. 

Yours sincerely, 

E. Grey. 

In the press of after-events this letter had passed en- 
tirely from my mind, till it was found in searching among 
private papers left at the Foreign Office for documents 
relating to this period. That the possibility of ceding a 
port to Germany on the west coast of Morocco should 
ever have been mentioned is evidence of how little I was 
aware of the pitfalls and quaking grounds about me; and 
also of what was real and actual. I was unaware, when 
writing the letter, that Lord Lansdowne had in the pre- 
vious year, when the French were giving way temporarily 
under German pressure, urged them on no account to 
concede a port in Morocco to Germany. Lansdowne 
presumably was acting on strong naval opinion. This 
was before the development of submarine warfare and 
mines laid by submarines, and I thought the view tenable 


that ports and other possessions scattered over the world 
were at the mercy of the Power that had command of the 
sea. We were that Power, and German ports and colonies 
abroad were hostages for us to take. In any event, the 
idea of a port for Germany would not have been mooted 
till it had first been discussed at the Committee of Im- 
perial Defence, and there it would have been vetoed and 
died. It would, therefore, never have been mentioned by 
me to the French; but what I evidently did not realize, 
when this letter was written, was that to mention it to the 
French would have been fatal to the Entente. The mere 
suggestion of yielding to Germany a port in Morocco 
would have shaken their confidence in our diplomatic 
support, and that confidence would never have revived. 

To discuss anything, however delicate and tentative, 
with a Prime Minister is natural and proper. There are 
two persons with whom a Minister ought to be able to 
toss his thoughts of policy, however tentatively; one is his 
chief private secretary, and the other is the Prime Minis- 
ter. If he feels that he cannot safely do that he cannot 
be comfortable while being served by the one or serving 
under the other. 

I refer to this letter, however, not merely for its bearing 
on the immediate question of a port in Morocco, but for 
the general line of policy sketched in it. 

Just as the conversation with Cambon of January 31 
lays down the lines of our relations with France, so this 
letter to Campbell-Bannerman explains the parallel lines 
of our relations to Germay. It will be observed that I 
told Metternich that, in the event of France getting into 
trouble because of the Entente, public feeling would be so 
strong in sympathy for France that the British Govern- 
ment could not remain neutral. I could give this only 


as a personal opinion; but it wai stated again and again, 
notably in the Agadir Crisis in 1911. It was a warning 
given in a way that could not be offensive, but was very 

The next point to be notec is that the Entente with 
France was not to be used against German policy or 
interests. This attitude, too, endured to the end. France 
was fully aware that no aggression on Germany would 
receive any countenance from us ; in 1911, in the Agadir 
Crisis, while supporting France diplomatically, as we 
were bound to do about Morocco, we let it be understood 
that we regarded with good-wi 1 1 he negotiations on which 
France entered to give Germany some satisfaction else- 

The third point of interest is tie discomfort in my mind 
of finding us somehow engaged in blocking Germany’s 
projects in other parts of the world. We were bound to 
oppose her plans, where they were inimical or dangerous 
to British interests, but was i : necessary to assume that 
everything everywhere that Germany wanted was danger- 
ous to us? On these lines my thoughts continued to run, 
but in effect there were only two matters of real impor- 
tance to Germany that it lay wi :h us to facilitate. One was 
Walfisch Bay, the only possible harbour for German 
South-West Africa. About this we could do nothing; it 
belonged to South Africa, and. though it was surrounded 
by German territory, the Government of South Africa 
would never dream of parting with it. The other, and 
chief matter of importance to G irmany, was the Bagdad 
Railway; and about that we did eventually come to an 
agreement, as will be explained at the proper time. 

There was much vague talk in Germany about “a place 
in the sun,” and some equally vague sympathy in England 


1 1 8 

with that aspiration of Germany. But if by a place in 
the sun tropical Africa was meant, Germany already had 
her place in South-West Africa, East Africa, and Came- 
roons and Togoland. A place in the sun was not what 
Germany wanted. The tropics do not provide an outlet 
for a white race. What Germany really wanted was a 
place in a temperate climate and a fertile land, which 
could be peopled by her white population and be German, 
part of the German Empire and under the German flag. 
We had no such place to offer; South Africa, Australia, 
New Zealand, North and South America, all the temper- 
ate lands of the world not populated or over-populated 
by yellow races, were taken up by and belonged to white 
races, who were in possession of them. Germans could 
go there and did go, notably to the United States; but 
they had to become one with the other white inhabitants 
and accept the separate Government of those countries, 
if they wished to share in the possession of them. These 
were the inexorable facts of the situation, and if the talk 
about a “place in the sun” was translated into terms of 
practical application and of fact, it became two things — 
Walfisch Bay and the Bagdad Railway. 


In 1910, four years after the Algeciras Conference, I had a long talk 
in England, on various matters of interest, with Theodore Roosevelt. 
In the course of our talk he introduced the subject of the Algeciras 
Conference, and told me that he believed his own action had had great 
if not decisive influence in making Germany give way about the port 
of Casablanca. What he told me of his communications with the 
German Emperor supported this view. I do not know what record 
he kept of those communications, or even whether they still exist, and 
I shall not therefore say more about them. The fact, however, that 
Roosevelt believed, and from what he told me had reason to believe, 
that the part he took influenced a peaceful solution should be on record 
and is of interest. 




The Sultan and the Sinai Peninsula — His Claim to the Gulf of Akaba 
— Inviting an Ultimatum — Cromer and the Oriental Mind — The 
Disturbance of “Beech Sunday” — The Situation in Constantinople 
— Predominance of German Influence and How Obtained — A 
Cynical Policy — The Denshawai Incident — A Difficult Decision 
— Lord Cromer’s Opinion — Life in London and the Country. 

S OME other subjects must be mentioned, though they 
are not landmarks in the course of British policy, 
and though they do not directly affect the progress 
of the main issue. 

Early in 1906 the Sultan, Abdul Hamid, demanded 
that Egyptian troops should be withdrawn from certain 
places in the Sinai Peninsula, and Turkish troops 
occupied certain posts in that peninsula. The Turks also 
demanded that Egyptian troops should be withdrawn 
from the island of Tiran, the only good anchorage in 
the Gulf of Akaba. 

The question of right to these places depended on long 
usage, confirmed by a telegram from the Grand Vizier 
at Constantinople on April 8, 1892. This was understood 
to give the Khedive the right to administer the Sinai 
Peninsula in the same manner as his father and grand- 
father had done before him. The Turkish action was 
a gratuitous disturbance of this longstanding arrange- 

On the question of substance and importance this ex- 


tract from a Foreign Office summary gives Lord Cromer’s 

Lord Cromer pointed out the danger underlying the Turkish demands. 
The construction of a railway down to the bank of the Suez Canal 
could not but be regarded as a menace to the liberty of Egypt and to 
freedom of transit through the Canal. The proposed line cutting the 
Suez Peninsula in half would also have the effect of rendering the 
Gulf of Akaba more available for torpedo-boats, which would lie on 
the flank of the route to India and within easy striking distance of that 
route: the Turkish frontier would also be brought within ioo miles 

of the Suez Canal and close to the town of Nekl, a place of much 
strategical importance ; and a number of Arab tribes hitherto from time 
immemorial under the Egyptian Government would be handed over to 
the Turkish Authorities. 

It is not worth while now to explain the geographical 
details of the Turkish demand to which Lord Cromer 
referred ; the extract given will show that substantial 
importance attached to them both in the interest of Britain 
and of Egypt. A Joint Commission for delimiting the 
frontier was proposed to the Sultan, but he would have 
none of it. 

The Khedive suggested that the telegram of April 8, 
1892, should be taken as the basis of settlement, and that 
the line of frontier should run from Rafeh to a point on 
the coast three miles west of Fort Akaba. 

The reply of the Grand Vizier is described in the fol- 
lowing extract from the Foreign Office summary at the 
time; it was to this effect: 

(1) That the Gulf of Akaba and the Sinai Peninsula were outside 
the territory defined in the Imperial Firman. 

(2) That the telegram of April 8, 1892, only referred to the western 
side of the Sinai Peninsula. 

(3) That the interpretation of that telegram was a matter which 
only concerned the Imperial Government. 


1 2 1 

And so on. Finally the hope was expressed that no 
occasion would be afforded for interference. 

The summary already quoted continues as follows: 

The form of the Turkish reply was unusual, both on account of 
the uncompromising tone and the omission of the usual terms of courtesy. 

Lord Cromer said that the Khedive did not propose to send any 
reply. Two points were, he added, clear from this telegram. One was 
that the Sultan considered himself entirely free to interpret the telegram 
of April 8, 1892, in whatever manner he wished. The other was that 
he, at the least, laid claim to the whole of the western shore of the 
Gulf of Akaba and to a large portion of the Sinai Peninsula. The 
question, therefore, was not merely whether there should be any minor 
rectification of frontier, but whether the Turks should be put in a 
position which would enable them to be a standing menace both to the 
freedom of the Suez Canal and to the liberties of Egypt. 

It was evident that Abdul Hamid wanted an ultima- 
tum; why he had raised the question at all I could not 
imagine, unless it were from the Turkish passion for 
reopening questions for the sake of the manoeuvring that 
ensues. Unless Abdul Hamid intended a serious en- 
croachment on Egypt it was not worth his while to 
trouble the Sinai Peninsula at all; if he did intend serious 
encroachment, he must have known that we should take 
it seriously, and that he would have to give way. 

I once heard Lord Cromer describe the impossibility 
of understanding the Turkish oriental mind. I am not 
sure that I recall quite accurately what he said, but it 
was to this effect. 

If it is important to you to know what an Oriental is 
going to do you must ask yourself three questions: (1) 

What would you yourself do under the same conditions? 
(2) What do you think the wisest man you know would 
do? (3) What do you think the Oriental will do? 



When you have answered these questions you will know 
three things that the Oriental certainly will not do. 
Nearer to his intention than that you cannot get. 

Why Abdul Hamid should have desired an ultimatum 
was beyond the reach of speculation, but, as he evidently 
did desire it, he had to be humoured and an ultimatum 
was sent. A ship had already been sent to the Gulf of 
Akaba, and now the Mediterranean Fleet was moved 
eastwards and preparations made for coercive measures 
at the expiry of a ten-day ultimatum. 

On the tenth day Abdul Hamid gave way, and finally 
a note was sent to the British Ambassador at Constanti- 
nople to say that the Porte did not question the telegram 
of April 8, 1892; that a Joint Commission would be 
appointed to fix boundaries so as to secure the main- 
tenance of the status quo on the lines of this telegram; 
and that the boundary should run from Rafeh approxi- 
mately straight to a point not less than three miles from 

The danger to Egypt which was revealed in the Great 
War is complete justification for the firmness which was 
displayed on this occasion by the British Government. 

So the incident ended — a very tedious affair that had 
dragged on from January to May. There are generally 
some small points that bring a touch of humour even into 
negotiations like those with Abdul Hamid. 

It has been mentioned that the line of boundary pro- 
posed by the British and Egyptian Governments was to 
run from a place called Rafeh approximately in a straight 
line to near Akaba. This line would not prejudice or 
indeed affect Turkish interests, and it was impossible 
to divine why Abdul Hamid was so intractable about it. 
One suggestion made to account for his obstinacy was that 



he had in his mind confused Rafeh with Jafeh. The 
latter name suggests Jaffa. Jaffa was far away from any 
boundary that Egypt ever would claim or had dreamt of 
claiming. To have mentioned Jaffa in this connexion 
would have been a preposterous aggression on Turkey. 
I did not credit the suggestion that Abdul Hamid had 
really mistaken Rafeh for Jaffa, but the notion that such 
a confusion in his mind was possible, and that the whole 
trouble that had lasted for months could have been cleared 
up at any moment by a conversation over a map, had an 
element of comedy. Perhaps, however, Abdul Hamid 
did not believe in maps, and would have regarded any 
map presented to him as something designed and drawn 
to deceive. 

Another aspect of the Akaba trouble was peculiar and 
personal: I hesitate to describe it lest it should seem too 
trivial. It needs a digression that, to begin with, must 
seem quite irrelevant. The serious student of foreign 
policy had best perhaps pass over it unread. 

There are a few days in the first part of May when 
the beech-trees in young leaf give an aspect of light and 
tender beauty to English country which is well known 
but indescribable. The days are very few, the colour of 
the leaves soon darkens, their texture becomes stiffer; 
beautiful they are still, but “the glory and the dream” 
are gone. Unless Whitsuntide is unusually early, Sundays 
in the first half of May are the only days on which those 
who have business in towns can be sure of a whole day 
spent in the country at leisure. The first Sunday in May 
was a little too early for the perfection of the beeches 
in the country round my Hampshire cottage; the second 
Sunday in May was the perfect day. In my calendar it 
was known as “Beech Sunday,” a day set apart and conse- 



crated to enjoyment of the beauty of beech-leaves and to 
thankfulness for it. It was my habit on that morning, 
each year, to bicycle to a beech-wood some nine miles 
from the cottage. There I lunched once every year on 
that day at the foot of a certain tree. The wood was 
entirely of beech; the trees standing far apart, the grey 
boles grew up straight and clear and smooth for some 
distance above the ground. High overhead the branches 
touched and made a canopy; the blue sky just visible here 
and there; the sunshine coming through the tender, light- 
green leaves; a breeze stirring them now and then, but 
very gently, — such was the vision of what I had seen and 
known year by year that was present to me in the Foreign 
Office in the second week of May. I thought of it, looked 
forward to it, counted upon it. 

The ultimatum had been delivered on May 3, it was 
to expire on Sunday, May 13. As the second week of 
May was passing and no answer came from Constanti- 
nople, it became evident that Abdul Hamid would not 
forgo one day of the precious ultimatum. As the hours 
of Saturday passed, someone in the Foreign Office, prob- 
ably Eldon Gorst, with special knowledge of Turkish 
ways, assured me casually and confidently that Abdul 
Hamid would certainly give way, but that he certainly 
would not do so till the last day. 

When the answer arrived, on the last day, a decision 
would have to be taken at once as to whether it was satis- 
factory or not. If the ultimatum expired with no answer 
or with an unsatisfactory answer received, the Mediter- 
ranean Fleet must be instructed to act. I must therefore 
be on the spot in London on the last day. As this became 
clear to me I expressed my feelings to one of the high 
authorities in the Foreign Office; he listened civilly, but, 



as was told me years afterwards, expressed outside my 
room astonishment that was scornful. 

On the morning of Sunday, May 13, Charles Hardinge 
and Eldon Gorst came to my house in Queen Anne’s 
Gate to await the Turkish answer and to consult. About 
midday it came ; it was completely satisfactory ; Hardinge 
and Gorst went their ways. I took a train into Surrey 
and walked through some good country that I knew and 
so to Guildford and back to London to be ready for the 
coming week of office and political work on Monday. 

I remained, so far as ultimatums to Turkey were con- 
cerned, a sadder and a wiser man. This ultimatum had 
been necessary, but it was the outcome of a long-drawn- 
out dispute, and there had been no need to choose even 
a particular week, still less a Sunday, for its last day. 
I had now to wait another twelve months to see the great 
beech-wood as I knew it in its greatest beauty. 

The question has already been asked, “Why did Abdul 
Hamid raise this question at all, and why was he so 
obstinate about it?” The obvious answer was suggested 
at the time : that he acted on German instigation. It seems 
improbable to me that this was so. The Algeciras Con- 
ference was peaceably over long before our ultimatum 
became necessary, and there was no crisis to make the 
Germans wish to distract our attention and embarrass us 
at that particular moment. They did not seriously pro- 
pose to support Abdul Hamid in this dispute. If they 
instigated him, it was a policy of mischief so idle and 
purposeless that I could not credit them with wasting 
time upon it. The following letter which I wrote to 
Lascelles, our Ambassador at Berlin, gives the line taken 
at the time. Nothing occurred later to qualify or change 
this view of the Akaba affair. 



Sir Edward Grey to Sir Frank Lascelles 

Foreign Office, London, 

May i, 1906. 

My dear Lascelles, — I volunteered to Metternich yesterday a 
statement of how things stood between us and Turkey respecting the 
Egyptian frontier dispute. I did so on the ground that I did not 
desire to withhold from him in this matter what I have said to others. 

I have done all this as practical proof that, now the Conference 
is over, we are not working against German interests as such, and 
do not wish to treat them in a specially frigid or distant way. Whether 
it has any effect I do not know, but it may be useful to you to know how 
it was meant. 

Metternich complains of my having said that German friendship 
might be encouraging Turkey: he provoked the remark by a statement 
that it was the weakness of Russia which was encouraging the Turks. 
I have told him that my remark was not meant as a reproach about the 
Egyptian frontier difficulty, of which we were not talking at the time, 
and that what I did mean was that the vigorous support given by 
Germany to the Sultan, e.g. as regards Macedonia, might have led him 
to presume too far. 

As a matter of fact, I do not suppose the German Embassy has done 
anything in the Egyptian frontier question; but Baron Oppenheim has 
been very thick with Mukhtar, who has stirred up the agitation in Egypt, 
which has led to an increase of the garrison; and if his influence with 
Mukhtar has been used to calm him, it has been singularly unsuccessful. 

Yours sincerely, 

(Signed) E. Grey. 

It may be convenient to deal at this point with the 
diplomatic situation in Turkey. Misgovernment and 
ill-treatment of Christian minorities in Asia Minor was 
endemic, outrage and massacre were epidemic; a very 
brutal outbreak had occurred in 1895 which had shocked 
Lord Salisbury, and, as we now know from published 
German documents, had temporarily disgusted the Ger- 
man Emperor. Constantinople was a sort of cockpit of 

Photograph by Russell & Sens, London 


German Ambassador in London, 1901-1911 


concessionaires competing for commercial openings, espe- 
cially those in Asia Minor. To obtain concessions diplo- 
matic support was necessary; and, for diplomatic support 
to be effective, we needed prestige and influence. Abdul 
Hamid was an adept at playing off one Government 
against another; influence could be acquired at Constanti- 
nople at a price. The price was friendship to Abdul 
Hamid, whatever he might do in Turkey; never to worry 
him about Armenian massacres; to protect him in the 
Concert of Europe from being worried by other Powers. 
No British Government could pay this price. Lord Salis- 
bury could not have done it, if he would, and he made it 
evident, after the horrors of 1895, that he would not, if 
he could. The German Government and the German 
Emperor paid the price and got the position that Great 
Britain had once held at Constantinople. German in- 
fluence, acquired by complacency to Abdul Hamid and 
backed by the prestige of German armaments, became 
dominant at Constantinople. British influence declined. 
British representations about Armenian massacres made 
us hated, but not feared. Abdul Hamid knew that with- 
out European support we could not go beyond diplomatic 
worry; for the Fleet could not interfere in Asia Minor, 
nor could we act alone in a matter that was of European 
and not separate British interest without provoking the 
jealousy and counter-measures of other Powers. Public 
opinion in Britain demanded that we should make repre- 
sentations; we did so, to the cost of British material 
interests in Turkey. 

The irony of it all was that little or no good was done. 
We received some diplomatic support from France and 
Russia, but always within limits that stopped short of 
practical results. Russia was not willing to push her 



championship of Christian Minorities to effective lengths, 
unless she was thereby to get political results favourable 
to herself, such as the opening of the Straits to Russian 
ships of war. Her championship of Christians in Euro- 
pean Turkey in the seventies of the last century had 
ended in her being deprived of the fruits of victory over 
Turkey; and it was British policy that had taken the lead 
in restricting these fruits. Great Britain no longer sup- 
ported Turkey, which Lord Salisbury had denounced as 
“the wrong horse,” but was understood to be unwavering 
in her desire to keep the Straits closed against ships of 
war. France had her hands full with her own affairs, 
and could not afford to provoke friction with dreaded 
Germany over anything in which French interests were 
not specially concerned; she had trouble and apprehen- 
sion enough without that. We, as an island Power, could 
and did take a lead in protesting against Abdul Hamid’s 
doings, but we could not expect, and did not receive, 
whole-hearted co-operation from continental Powers, 
who feared a European conflagration unless Germany was 
whole-heartedly with us too; and Germany was Abdul 
Hamid’s friend. 

Germany at Constantinople exploited the situation 
steadily to her own advantage. We sacrificed our in- 
fluence and material interests in Turkey; we did indeed 
keep our hands clean and acquit the national conscience, 
but to do this without effectively helping the objects of 
our efforts and our sympathy, the Christian Minorities 
in Turkey, was a very barren and unsatisfying result. 

German policy seems to have been based upon a de- 
liberate belief that moral scruples and altruistic motives 
do not count in international affairs. Germany did not 
believe that they existed in other nations, and she did not 


assume them for herself. The highest morality, for a 
German Government, was the national interest; this over- 
rode other considerations, and as such she pursued it at 
Constantinople. Her policy was completely successful ; 
ours was deadlock and failure. Germany pushed her com- 
mercial interests in Turkey; the wealth of Asia Minor 
was passing into her hands; but she gained these advan- 
tages by acting on the belief that morals do not count in 
policy. It was this mistaken view of human affairs be- 
tween nations that lost her the war. The very principles 
and views that for so many years seemed an unqualified 
success in her Eastern policy had the seeds of destruction 
in them. Surely the conclusion is irresistible that a policy 
which rules out all moral purpose except national interest 
has a fatal lack of what is essential to enduring success. 

Those who are so disposed may see, in what is written 
here, evidence of something that moved us to an anti- 
German policy. It was not so. The methods by which 
Germany pushed her policy in Turkey did indeed seem 
to us cynical, but her success in getting concessions and 
making Asia Minor a special field for German enterprise 
we accepted. There was plenty of room in the world for 
both British and German enterprise. When German 
trade was good, British trade was good too. It was the 
great commercial centres of Great Britain that were most 
pacific and least anti-German up to the very outbreak of 
the Great War; and on the eve of that war we had com- 
pleted an agreement with Germany about the Bagdad 
Railway that would have facilitated, and not hindered, 
that enterprise in Asia Minor on which she set such store. 

One other matter in this year 1906 must be noticed. 
It had no bearing on or relation directly to foreign policy, 
but it caused storms in the House of Commons and con- 



tributed to the feeling of uneasiness about myself in a 
section of the Liberal Party. This feeling had its origin 
in my association with what was supposed to be a forward 
foreign policy, when I was Under-Secretary (1892-5), 
and had been intensified by differences of opinion about 
the South African War. Such a feeling, once started, 
is apt to be increased by incidents that, taken by them- 
selves, would not originate it. 

The affair now to be related is an illustration of a cer- 
tain kind of difficulty in which any British Government 
may at any time be placed in the course of governing an 
oriental country, where its rule depends on force and 
on prestige. 

On June 13, 1906, some British officers stationed in 
Egypt were shooting pigeons at the village of Denshawai 
in the district of Tantah. They were unexpectedly, and, 
as it seemed at the time, unaccountably attacked by the 
inhabitants. The attack was violent and brutal: the 
officers received more or less severe injuries, and one of 
them, Captain Bull, was found dead with two severe 
blows on the head a mile and a half from the scene of 
the assault. 

Arrests were made, and a trial was to take place before 
a tribunal of the highest competence. There was no rea- 
son for the Foreign Office to be concerned or to interfere. 
Lord Cromer himself reported the matter, and left Egypt 
for his annual holiday before the trial was concluded. 

Suddenly I was confronted at the Foreign Office by 
the following telegram : 



Mr. Findlay to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received June 27) 


Telegraphic . June 27, 1906. 

The Special Tribunal has been engaged during the last three days in 
trying the case of assault on British officers. News has just arrived that 
judgment was given this morning. The following are the sentences: 

Four of the ringleaders are condemned to death ; two are condemned 
to penal servitude for life ; one to fifteen years ; six to seven years ; three 
to one year and fifty lashes; and five to fifty lashes. The remaining 
prisoners, to the number of thirty-one, were acquitted. With regard 
to the prisoners found guilty, the decision of the Court was unanimous. 
Premeditation and concerted action were clearly established by the 
evidence, as was also the fact that the blows which he received acted 
as a contributory cause of the death of Captain Bull. I am informed 
that any British jury would have found the first six persons guilty of 
murder. In the case of the four men who are under sentence of death 
there are no extenuating circumstances; they were held by the Court 
to be all equally guilty. The Court expressed its opinion that extreme 
forbearance and self-restraint characterized the behaviour of the officers. 
It was only after the latter had given up their guns that the chief 
attack took place. The villagers continued it in cold blood, and showed 
the greatest brutality. Three of the best-known native advocates 
defended the accused, and were given a full hearing. As laid down in 
the decree of 1895, the sentences will be executed immediately. After an 
exhaustive discussion of the whole case with the Regent, I am fully 
convinced that the evidence entirely justified the sentence. 

In reply to a telegram from the Foreign Office the 
following further telegram was received : 

Mr. Findlay to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received June 28) 


Telegraphic . June 28, 1 906. 

Following was the composition of the Special Tribunal: 

1. Boutros Pasha, Acting Minister of Justice, officiated as President. 

2. Mr. Hayter, Acting Judicial Adviser, who was formerly a Judge 
in the Soudan. 



3. Mr. Bond, Vice-President of the Native Court of Appeal, an 
office practically corresponding to that of Lord Chief Justice, whose 
capacity and experience are great. 

4. Fathi Bey, President of the Cairo Native Tribunal. 

5. Colonel Ludlow, officiating Judge Advocate, representing the 
Army of Occupation. His experience of Courts Martial is considerable, 
and he is acquainted with Arabic. 

It is specially provided by the Decree of 1895 that immediate execution 
should be given to the sentences passed by the Special Tribunal (see 
Lord Cromer’s telegram No. 190). Dangerous suspense and excitement 
would be entailed by delay in all cases such as the present, between which 
and death sentences in England there is no parallel. The Special 
Tribunal was instituted as a substitute for courts martial. It merely 
expedites procedure, every possible security being given to the accused. 
I am not aware that any other Army of Occupation has ever delegated 
its powers. The capacity of the members of the Court can be attested 
to both by Lord Cromer (whose address is 20 Mansfield Street) and 
Sir E. Gorst. 

I am advised that no legal power to interfere with the execution 
of the decision come to by the Court is possessed either by the Egyptian 
Government or by His Majesty’s Agency. As soon as Lord Cromer 
applied to the Egyptian Government for the convocation of the Court 
the matter passed out of our hands. 

The execution should be carried out at two o’clock this afternoon on 
the scene of the outrage. Order will be maintained by troops sent for 
that purpose, and I submit that any interference on the part of His 
Majesty’s Government is earnestly to be deprecated. In the present 
state of the country, dangerous results might be brought about by such 
interference. I am convinced that Lord Cromer would concur in my 

You may be perfectly assured that the Court were not inspired either 
by panic or vindictiveness in passing sentence ; that the evidence proved 
premeditation and concerted action on the part of the condemned men; 
that the death of Captain Bull was due to their action, and that they 
were the principal participators in that action. 

The sentences were very severe, startlingly so, and were 
to be executed immediately. There was no time for a 



Cabinet, but I consulted Campbell-Bannerman in his 
room at the House of Commons and we got Asquith to 
join us. Our decision was that we could not interfere, 
and the sentences were executed. 

They were carried out in public on the spot where the 
assault had been made. 

Full papers were published, and will be found in 
Egypt No. 3 and No. 4, 1906, presented to Parliament. 
They leave no doubt that the Tribunal and officials on 
the spot believed they were acting in accord with justice, 
and with what order and safety in Egypt required. But 
the full account of all the circumstances, when published, 
created a painful impression that the punishment had been 
excessive. My defence in the House of Commons had 
been based on the two telegrams quoted above. When 
the full facts were before me I felt that what had been 
done was open to question. 

Technically there was no right to interfere with the 
sentences, but in the last resort the British Government 
had always the power to intervene — a power, neverthe- 
less, which it was most undesirable to exercise, and which 
could only have been rightly used in extreme emergency. 

Ought we to have interfered, or not? 

The effect of the execution of the sentences was bad in 
Egypt. It intensified anti-British feeling. The effect at 
home was also bad. That is true, but it does not answer 
the question. 

Egypt was in a disturbed state. The effect of overrid- 
ing the decision of the Tribunal would have been incal- 
culable. It would have spread an impression in Egypt 
that the officials on the spot were not to be supported from 
home : disorder might have broken loose, severe measures 



of protection and repression might have become neces- 
sary, with loss of life and many untoward results. 

The problem confronts the British Government again 
and again. If officials on the spot commit in good faith 
an error of judgment, which is worse — to support them 
or to throw them over? To uphold the authority on the 
spot at the cost of making British rule open to reproach, 
or to override it at the risk of undermining it altogether? 
No general answer of universal application can be given. 
Each case must be judged by itself, but those who think 
the question easy to answer can think so only because 
they do not understand that there is a problem to be 

It is interesting to recall Lord Cromer’s view of this 
affair. He came to see me directly he arrived in Eng- 
land, and had heard of the sentences. 

He was greatly disturbed ; he realized to the full the 
bad effect on public opinion. He said that if he had had 
any notion that such things might happen he would never 
have left Egypt before the trial was over. 

He was very emphatic that it would have been a capital 
error to overrule the Tribunal when once the sentences 
had been pronounced, taking very strongly the view that 
to throw over the authority on the spot would be disas- 
trous, especially in the state of feeling then existing in 
Egypt. The district of Tantah in particular was a centre 
of disturbance and crime. British travellers, who go to 
Egypt and get at the facts, are sometimes astonished at 
the number of murders in a bad district; and the men 
concerned in this affray were notoriously bad characters. 
Rescission or modification of sentences would, in Lord 
Cromer’s view, have led to worse disasters. 


Lord Cromer gave his own surmise of what had been 
at the bottom of the whole affair. 

The pigeons belonged to the villagers ; it was the custom 
of British officers to get permission from the Omdeh, the 
head-man of the village, to shoot the pigeons. For this 
a sum was paid that made the villagers well content. On 
these terms shooting had taken place at this very spot 
before. Lord Cromer’s surmise was that the money paid 
had never reached the owners of the pigeons. They had 
therefore determined to resist any further shooting and 
to go for the officers who next attempted it. The Omdeh 
again gave permission to shoot, and trouble followed. 
The result, of course, was to put a stop to the practice of 
pigeon-shooting altogether. 

Here it may be convenient, and not out of place, to say 
something of recreation and home life. Both are sadly 
curtailed by office. In a normal year, if there be no 
unusual crisis, Ministers for Foreign Affairs all over 
Europe get what holiday and change of air they can in 
the end of the summer. Like many other people, they 
have to wait till the fresh glory of late spring and early 
summer is over; then, when the days are getting shorter 
and the year is beginning to decline, and the air is keen, 
and birds are in the moult and silent, they retire to the 
country. At this season, after Parliament adjourned, I 
used to spend some time at Fallodon. The daily bulk of 
Foreign Office work was large, but it could be done at 
home, with occasional journeys to spend two or three days 
at the Foreign Office to consult and to keep in personal 
touch with those in charge there. This stay at Fallodon 
and two or three short visits to friends for shooting were 
the recreation of the Parliamentary Recess. In October 



residence in London again became permanent till Christ- 
mas, when there was another opportunity of getting to 
Fallodon. Hitherto recreation in London had consisted 
of two games a week of real tennis, generally in the 
M.C.C. Court at Lords. I saw, however, that it would 
be impossible to keep the fixed times necessary to play 
and be in practice for the game, and so it was given up 

Week-ends in spring and summer were spent in the 
Hampshire cottage, where I would fish for some hours 
when free on Saturdays and at Whitsuntide. In autumn 
and winter I found a quiet hotel opening on to a heath 
in the New Forest. There I could have the same private 
rooms at the end of each week. On Sunday morning I 
might start between 1 1 o’clock and midday, walk off into 
the Forest, eat my pocket-luncheon in some wild part of 
it, drop into an inn at Beaulieu, Lyndhurst, or Burley for 
tea, and thence get back to the hotel on the outskirts of 
Brockenhurst in the evening, in the dusk in early spring, 
under moon or stars in winter. The other hours of the 
day were available for reading or work. Early on Mon- 
day morning I returned to London with all arrears of 
work done, lungs filled with fresh air, limbs stretched, 
mind and body refreshed. These week-end expeditions 
have sometimes, I am told, been questioned, as implying 
slackness in work; they were, it is true, planned for pleas- 
ure and not for duty, but they did in fact suit the work 
much better than any other way of spending the week- 
end out of London. The ordinary country house visit so 
often means neither work, rest, nor exercise; I made sure 
of all these, and the anticipation of these weekly escapes 
kept up my spirits during many weary hours of work in 
London. So it was till war came, when for months to- 


gether an hour or two in Richmond Park or Kew Gardens 
on Sunday afternoon was all that was possible. 

If the word “holiday” could be applied to any of the 
days described above, they would indeed imply a goodly 
amount of holiday in the years; but for a Cabinet Min- 
ister, who is head of a big Department of State, there is 
no real holiday; the work follows him like his shadow, 
presses upon him like a perennial stream. Every day 
given to outdoor pursuit must be paid for by working 
early and late hours, that day or the next. 

For the first two years at the Foreign Office, 1906 and 
1907, no salmon fishing, for which I had a passion, was 
attempted. After that, for a fortnight each April, a small 
fishing was rented on a Scotch river ; when this eagerly- 
longed-for time approached it was interfered with or cut 
short by some exigency of work. In 1909 it was reduced 
to one day, and after two or three disappointments I felt 
that the attempt must be abandoned, or someone at least 
as fit for the responsibility as myself must be found to 
take my place for the time. John Morley was willing, 
and for a fortnight in April I had relief, only telegrams 
and papers of real importance being sent to me, that I 
might keep in touch. Morley dealt with all the work 
that was required of the Secretary of State, and had all 
the papers of the office at his disposal. It was a happy 
interval, for Morley left me in no doubt that he liked 
the change of work; indeed, from what I heard from 
officials at the Foreign Office, he enjoyed it almost as much 
as I enjoyed the holiday. 




North Sea and Baltic — Negotiating with Germany — French Appre- 
hensions — Lord Ripon’s Opinion — Royal Visits — Embarrassments 
and Suspicions — Self-poisoning in Germany. 

I N looking through old papers, it is depressing to read 
of the distrust and suspicion with which Govern- 
ments and peoples regarded each other in these 
years. The impression given is of an atmosphere so mis- 
erable and unwholesome that nothing healthy could live in 
it. Probably it was no worse than it had always been, and 
it did not seem so bad at the time as it does in retrospect. 
At the time one incident succeeded another; there were 
intervals of comparative calm between them. In reading 
the record the impression is continuous and cumulative. 
Various negotiations in 1907 and 1908 were an instance of 
this. There were at least four separate subjects under 
discussion: a guarantee for Norway, the abrogation of 
the old treaty under which Britain and France were in 
effect guarantors that Russia should not fortify the Aaland 
Islands, the status quo in the Baltic, and the status quo 
in the North Sea. It is not worth while to explain these 
negotiations. What result they had at the time has been 
superseded by the war and its consequences. Nor did 
they have any important influence on the course of events 
before the war; but the records about them show how 
suspicious everyone was. It can at least be claimed for 
us that we did not, in these affairs, foment suspicion 



among others nor give just cause for it ourselves, though 
we did not escape being suspected. 

Russia engaged in a separate negotiation with Ger- 
many about the Baltic. The effect of this on France 
appears from the following extracts: 

From Sir F . Bertie to Sir Edward Grey 

October 3 1, 1907. 

M. Pichon is getting nervous as to what may be in discussion or have 
been already settled between Russia and Germany in regard to the 
Baltic. He asked me yesterday whether I had any information on the 
subject, and, on my replying in the negative, he said that he could not 
help suspecting that Germany had either done or was doing something 
to secure for herself advantages in the Baltic. She had been suspicious 
of British policy in regard to Norway, attributing to His Majesty’s 
Government the intention, in the event of war, to occupy a Norwegian 
port as a basis for hostilities with Germany, and she had therefore 
wished to have the integrity of Norway guaranteed, and both she and 
Russia had appeared to attach little or no importance to the position of 

From Sir Edward Grey to Mr. Lister 

Foreign Office, 

December 9, 1907. 

Sir, — I observed to M. Cambon to-day that the French Government 
had had a communication from the Russian Government about the 

M. Cambon replied that this was so. His Government understood 
that Russia and Sweden were discussing an arrangement, and that there 
must also be an arrangement with Germany. 

The Russian Government had represented to them that this was like 
the arrangement which had been made between France, England, and 
Spain with regard to the Mediterranean. But the French Government 
could not take this view, because England and France already had treaty 
obligations in the Baltic. 

I reminded M. Cambon that when the Aaland Islands Treaty had 
been under discussion in the summer I had always said it would be 



desirable to make sure what the arrangements as to the Baltic were 
to be in future before we abrogated the Treaty. 

I said I saw nothing to which we could object in the proposed arrange- 
ment between Russia, Germany, and Sweden if, as I understand, it was 
for the maintenance of the status quo , and did not relate to any closing 
or neutralizing of the Baltic, and had as a consequence the maintenance 
of the Baltic as an open sea for navigation. 

I had therefore thought it better to say at once that we had no desire 
except to see the status quo maintained, and that there seemed nothing 
in the arrangement to which we could take exception. 

M. Cambon asked whether I had expressed this view to the Russian 
Government. And I said I had done so, and also to the German 

But I told M. Cambon that I thought his Government and ours 
should make a point of seeing the terms of the proposed arrangement 
before we consented to the abrogation of the Aaland Islands Treaty. 
I was not sure what form the new arrangement would take, but I rather 
thought it would consist in three separate notes exchanged by Russia, 
Germany, and Sweden. 

M. Cambon asked what the effect would be in case of a war between 
England and Germany of an arrangement about the status quo in the 
Baltic. If, for instance, we were to enter the Baltic and attack German 
territory there, would that be a breach of the status quo which Russia 
would be bound by the proposed arrangement to oppose? 

I thought clearly not. If, after the war was over, we were to attempt 
to annex territory in the Baltic district, that might be a violation of 
the status quo . But if Russia permitted Germany to go to war, which 
was in itself a sort of disturbance of the status quo, she could not object 
to the other belligerent carrying war into the Baltic too, the information 
given to us being that the proposed arrangement did not involve the 
closing or neutralizing of the Baltic. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

Sir Edward Grey to Count de Sails 

Foreign Office, 

December 9, 1907. 

I told Count Metternich to-day that I had not attempted to com- 
municate with the Prime Minister in connexion with the information 
which he had given me about the Baltic and the North Sea, as I assumed 


there was no desire to begin negotiations of any kind at this moment. 

I had nothing new to say about the Baltic Arrangement. It seemed 
to me that Germany, Russia, and Sweden were within their rights in 
coming to an agreement as to the maintenance of the status quo . There 
was nothing in such an arrangement to which we could take exception, 
and I might tell him, without any arrierepensee that we did not object to 
it or regard it as likely to make difficulties between us. 

Mr. Lister to Sir Edward Grey 


December II, 1907. 

In the course of conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs 
to-day, I alluded to your conversation with M. Cambon on the subject 
of the Russo-Swedish and Russo-German Arrangements with regard to 
the Baltic. 

M. Pichon said that he felt convinced that the latter went considerably 
farther than the maintenance of the status quo in the Baltic. He hoped, 
however, very shortly to have more precise information on the subject. 
In any case, he believed that nothing had been signed as yet, and that 
we were still in time. He did not by any means intend to play the 
game of Germany by quarrelling with Russia over the matter, but 
he would not conceal from me that he was much irritated at her action. 
He could not appreciate too highly, he said, your attitude, which, as 
usual, had been absolutely loyal throughout, and he realized that the 
position of England was a delicate one. The position of France was very 
different, and he was quite determined to speak very clearly to Russia. 
He was, in fact, actually doing so. 

I did not at the time share the French apprehensions 
about the Russian negotiations with Germany regarding 
the Baltic, and was disposed to think that the trouble arose 
from Isvolsky having been the reverse of prompt in keep- 
ing the French informed. 

On December 4, 1908, Metternich told me that the 
Emperor was in favour of an arrangement to maintain 
the status quo in the North Sea, to which England, Ger- 
many, Denmark, and Holland should be parties. 



It was obvious that negotiations without France about 
the North Sea would cause worse trouble at Paris than 
negotiations about the Baltic. The following extract 
from a record of my conversation with Metternich shows 
the line taken. 

Sir Edward Grey to Count de Salis 

Foreign Office, 

December 4, 1907. 

Sir, — The German Ambassador to-day came to tell me confidentially, 
by the desire of his Government and of the Emperor, that discussions 
had been proceeding since the summer between Russia, Germany, and 
Sweden with a view to the conclusion of an Arrangement respecting the 
Baltic, similar to that which we had made with Spain about the 
Mediterranean, for the purpose of agreeing to maintain the status quo , 
a consequence of which would be that the Baltic remained an open sea 
for navigation. 

The Emperor had thought of mentioning the matter to me at Windsor, 
but he had decided not to do so, because he regarded his visit here as a 
family affair, during which it might not be suitable to raise political 
questions, and also because at that time it was not certain that the 
negotiations were approaching a conclusion. It was considered now, 
however, that the discussion with Russia was almost ended, though the 
discussion with Sweden might need some time longer. 

The Emperor further wished me to be told that, in his opinion, this 
Arrangement might with advantage be supplemented by a similar 
Arrangement with regard to the status quo in the North Sea, to which 
England, Germany, Denmark, and Holland should be parties. Belgium 
being a neutral State, it was not so appropriate that she should be 

I first thanked Count Metternich for making the communication to me 
respecting the Baltic, and said that, though I could hardly speak officially 
about it at once, personally I saw in it nothing whatever which could 
cause difficulties with us. We had no desire except to see the status quo 
preserved, and freedom of navigation. I was very glad the communica- 
tion had been made to me, as it was always better to know the truth 
about such matters before one heard of them in an inaccurate form. 

I then asked Count Metternich whether the fortification of the 


Lord Grey seen beneath it in the Garden at Fallodon 

Photograph by J. Candlish Ruddock 


Aaland Islands, respecting which we had a Treaty, would be regarded 
as a disturbance of the status quo . 

Count Metternich said this was a point of difficulty between Sweden 
and Russia, though not with Germany. Russia felt that the Aaland 
Islands offered dangerous facilities for the importation into Finland of 
arms, etc., in revolutionary times, and she wished to be able to guard 
against this. 

I said Russia had raised the question of the Aaland Islands Treaty 
in the summer on this ground, but the question had since been dropped. 

With regard to the North Sea, the idea was entirely new to me. 
It was, of course, a thing on which I should have to consult my 
colleagues before I could say anything. 

Count Metternich reminded me that the whole of this communication 
was made confidentially. 

That these apparently innocent and anodyne discussions 
were not so simple as was supposed appears from the line 
taken by Lord Ripon. As soon as he saw the record of 
the German proposal about the North Sea, he wrote to me 
about it with lively apprehension. Lord Ripon was no 
Chauvinist: he was a lover of peace, desiring to avoid 
quarrels and to be on good terms with all foreign coun- 
tries. That he should have felt as he did shows the need 
there was for caution. The correspondence with him was 
as follows: 

From Lord Ripon to Sir E . Grey 

December 15, 1907. 

My dear Grey, — I am very much obliged to you for replying so 
promptly to my letter about the proposed North Sea Convention, and 
very glad to find that the Germans have agreed to make a communica- 
tion to France on the subject; this is satisfactory. 

No doubt it is desirable to avoid refusing off-hand to consider any 
proposal emanating from Germany, but, on the other hand, there is 
a danger of some misunderstanding arising if we enter into negotiations 
and end by breaking off. But there is no use troubling you further on 
the matter till we know what the actual proposals of the German 


Government are. At present it does not seem to me that a North Sea 
Convention would do us any good, and it might hamper us inconveniently 
in the future. All that we need in the North Sea is to have our 
hands quite free as they now are. — Yours sincerely, 


From Sir Edward Grey to Lord Ripon 

December 13, 1907. 

Dear Lord Ripon, I am not sure that Germany has any motive 
except to show that she is not isolated. She may have intended to 
separate us and France, but if so that is over, for she has now put the 
North Sea proposal before France and told her that she has done 
so because we said that France must be a party. The French Govern- 
ment now know the line we have taken both about the Baltic and the 
North Sea, and Cambon has been very appreciative of both. 

You will see the record of conversations which I had yesterday, and 
these will further define the line which I have taken. 

If Germany is set upon appearing before the world arm-in-arm with 
us and F ranee, it will not do to affront her by refusing before it is clear 
that there is something which is objectionable in the proposal. If we did, 
Germany would have some pretext for saying that we aimed at her 

I hope you will agree with all that has been said so far ; I think it is 
all in accord with the line you advise. — Yours sincerely, 

E. Grey. 

Metternich’s last conversation seemed to contemplate 
that Denmark might come into the Baltic Convention: 

I remarked on her exclusion. 

In due course the whole affair was considered by the 
Cabinet; the negotiations proceeded, and the agreement 
was concluded. 

It is not worth while to quote further papers giving 
the history of the negotiations, which, once started, were 
concerned with points of detail. An even more fertile 
source of suspicion were royal visits. These visits were 
matters of civility and courtesy; as such their effect was 


good ; they made a friendly atmosphere. But they caused 
me the greatest trouble. 

In 1907 the German Emperor was to pay a visit to 
London; this in itself was well enough, but we heard that 
he was to come accompanied by a squadron and with such 
state and circumstance as would turn the visit into a great 
political demonstration. When this was deprecated he 
suddenly announced that he could not come at all. The 
cancellation of the visit would have been a demonstration 
the other way, equally to be deprecated. That the visit 
should take place at all was something that must make 
the French sensitive. That could not be helped. There 
was no reason why our relations with France should stand 
in the way of good relations with Germany ; it would have 
been still more unreasonable to suppose that King Edward 
and the Emperor were not to meet and to be as intimate 
as they chose. So the visit took place at Windsor. King 
Edward also saw the Emperor at Homburg, and paid him 
a state visit at Berlin. The Germans would have been 
very indignant at the suggestion that any other Govern- 
ment should have been sensitive about these visits between 
the King and Emperor. 

But when King Edward visited the Tsar at Reval, 
and when, in the course of his stay abroad, he saw the 
Austrian Emperor at Ischl, the Germans were as sensitive 
as anyone. 

Again the King visited the German Emperor at Hom- 
burg, and then passed on to Ischl, where he met the Em- 
peror of Austria. One suggestion made in Germany was 
that he had tried at Ischl to weaken the Triple Alliance. 

The idea that King Edward was a busy intriguer who 
used these visits for political ends, particularly for that 

1 See infra, pp. 202-09. 



of “encircling” Germany, was a fiction, but it became an 
article of faith in Germany. There is, I believe, a medi- 
cal term applied to certain unhealthy processes in the 
human body; it means “Self-poisoning.” Some analogous 
process went on in the German mind about King Edward. 
It had no origin in truth. My impression was that King 
Edward enjoyed these visits, and he certainly had no 
desire to spoil his own part in them by going into deep 
political waters. He desired to have someone with him 
to whom he could refer any Sovereign or Foreign Min- 
ister, who wished to have serious political discussion. For 
this purpose Hardinge went with him, and acted just as 
any Ambassador would, reporting his conversations home 
to the Foreign Office in the usual way. The visits were 
not made the object of important strokes or developments 
in foreign policy. 




The Necessity of an Understanding with Russia — The Persian Danger- 
point — “Vive La Duma!” — Benckendorff’s Question — An Unfa- 
vourable Atmosphere — Sowing Mischief — Gains and Losses of the 
Persian Agreement — Letters to Nicolson — A Train of Minor 
Troubles — A Dinner to Isvolsky. 

I T will be remembered that, when the Conservative 
Government made their first positive departure 
from previous policy, it was not in the direction of 
an undertaking with Russia by which differences between 
that country and Britain should be adjusted by mutual ac- 
commodation and agreement. The departure took the 
form of an alliance with Japan by which Russian ad- 
vances in the Far East could be controlled. But this 
arrangement applied only to the Far East. It left other 
causes of friction untouched, and if the Russian proceed- 
ings in the Far East had been the most recent cause of 
trouble with Russia, they were not the most dangerous, the 
most long-standing, or the most likely to recur. Russian 
advances towards the Indian frontier were the most sensi- 
tive and dangerous point. If we were to get out of the old, 
bad rut in which we had so often come to the verge of war 
with Russia, we had to work for a definite agreement. 
Russia was the ally of France; we could not pursue at one 
and the same time a policy of agreement with France and 
a policy of counter-alliances against Russia. Nor was 
there any third country with interests in the region of the 




Indian frontier with whom we could concert a policy to 
control Russian advance. An agreement with Russia was 
the natural complement of the agreement with France; 
it was also the only practical alternative to the old policy 
of drift, with its continual complaints, bickerings, and 
dangerous friction. 

Persia was the danger-point. The inefficiency of Per- 
sian Governments, the state of their finances, the internal 
disorders, not only laid Persia open to foreign inter- 
ference, but positively invited and attracted it. Teheran, 
the capital and the seat of the Central Government, was 
in the north of Persia; it was within easy striking distance 
from Russia, it was quite out of British reach. Russia had 
therefore a great and perpetual advantage in the struggle 
that went on between British and Russian diplomacy at 
Teheran. A British Minister many years ago endeavour- 
ing to encourage the Shah to stand up against Russian 
encroachments, was stopped by the Shah making the sign 
of a bow-string round his own neck to express the position 
of Russia with regard to himself. “What can you do?’' 
said the Shah to the British Minister. 

It is not suggested that Russian influence at Teheran 
was pressed with a deliberate design of advance to the 
Indian frontier; the policy of Russia was decided prob- 
ably by the momentum of her own weight and by the 
weakness of Persia; but each new concession or extension 
of influence increased British apprehension. We feared 
that we might at any time be confronted by some fait 
accompli which British interests would require us to 
resist — a situation very unpleasant to contemplate. 

British policy in Persia was therefore constantly in 
opposition to Russia; it was not a forward policy pushed 
for the purpose of extending British territory or influence. 



Its object was to keep Persia as a buffer State and to main- 
tain it as an independent country. 

It will readily be inferred that the atmosphere at 
Teheran was one of dislike, and distrust between Britain 
and Russia; and thus, to the inevitable friction caused by 
policies that had opposing aims, was added imputation of 
motive, where perhaps no sinister motive existed, so that 
even trivial or accidental things were exaggerated into 
matters of importance and design. 

The Persian Government, conscious of its own weak- 
ness, considered that its best hope lay in playing off one 
Government as far as it could against the other, and main- 
taining as far as it could an equipoise of bad relations 
between Britain and Russia. 

Such was the situation, and it was very clear that noth- 
ing short of a cordial understanding would prevent it 
from getting worse. Unless the mists of suspicion were 
dissolved by the warm air of friendship, the increasing 
friction would cause Britain and Russia to drift towards 

It was not so easy to create friendship with Russia as 
with France. Russian despotism was repugnant to British 
ideals, and something was constantly happening in Russia 
that alienated British sympathy or stirred indignation. 

The institution of a Duma in Russia had done some- 
thing to make even British Liberals more sympathetic. 
Representatives of the Duma visited London to take part 
in a gathering of international Parliamentary Represen- 
tatives. Campbell-Bannerman was to give an address to 
the gathering, and the fact that there were Russian Parlia- 
mentary Representatives in such an assembly for the first 
time served to make a friendly reference to Russia by the 
British Prime Minister exceptionally easy. On the morn- 



ing of the speech Campbell-Bannerman was confronted 
by the news that the Tsar had suspended the Duma. The 
occasion turned from one most auspicious to one extremely 
awkward. The one feature that saved the situation was 
that the Tsar had not abolished the Duma, but only sus- 
pended it. Campbell-Bannerman, with what seemed to 
me admirable adroitness, turned the awkward corner by 
the phrase “La Duma est morte; vive la Duma!” 

The next day Benckendorff came to see me and said that 
he feared the phrase might give offence at St. Petersburg. 
I upheld what Campbell-Bannerman had said, pointing 
out that it was an adaptation of the phrase “Le Roi est 
mort; vive le Roi,” which had a well-known historical 
origin and usage. The Tsar had made it evident that the 
Duma was now one of the permanent Institutions of 
Russia, and that he intended again to summon this or a 
new Duma. The phrase was therefore strictly applicable 
to the occasion, and ought not to give offence. 

Benckendorff gave me to understand that this put the 
thing in a more favourable light, and I heard no more of 

Later in the same year (1906) there was a projected 
visit of a British fleet to Cronstad. This aroused dislike 
and opposition among Liberals in the House of Commons, 
and caused great embarrassment at the Foreign Office; 
yet for us to cancel the visit of the fleet would have been 
a slight and rebuff to Russia, that must have prejudiced 
the relations of the two countries. Eventually the 
Russians themselves, with discretion and tact, asked that 
the visit should not take place. 

These incidents were an illustration of how difficult 
and delicate a business it was to put relations with Russia 
on a footing that would be friendly. 


A further illustration of the embarrassment and diffi- 
culty caused by the Tsar’s attitude to the Duma appears in 
the following extract from a letter of mine to Nicolson 
on October 3, 1906. The House of Commons had very 
naturally desired to send a congratulatory address to the 
Duma, when that body was sitting; there was, also very 
naturally, a desire not to go back on the address, because 
the Duma was suspended and in difficulties. Here is what 
I wrote to Nicolson, who must have been even more 
conscious of the delicacy of the situation than we were 
in London : 

The address to the Duma has become embarrassing. It was .originally 
planned when the Duma was sitting, and could not be objected to by 
them. It was a sort of greeting from the oldest to the youngest Parlia- 
ment. But the presentation of it by a deputation, when there is no 
Duma and nothing but chaos, is unfortunate. I could not have stopped 
it now; it was difficult enough to keep things straight in debate and 
answer in Parliament, and feeling in this free country runs too strong 
to be restrained by consideration for the feelings of an autocratic Govern- 
ment. Mr. Smeaton wrote to ask my advice as to going with the 
deputation, and I replied that, as the deputation was entirely unofficial, 
I could give no advice respecting it. 

I also realize that you can do nothing by representation about 
pogroms, and I shall not ask you to make any, though we may send 
you from time to time the apprehensions that are expressed here. In 
some parts of Russia there is apparently civil war, carried on by bombs 
on one side and pogroms on the other. 

The whole course of internal affairs in Russia rendered 
the atmosphere very unfavourable to friendly negotiations. 
The treatment of Poles and the treatment of Jews in 
Russia and kindred matters were often the subject of 
representations to me, and sometimes of questions in 
Parliament. Our interference could do no good ; it would 
only make things worse. A British Government had once 



addressed some remonstrance to Russia about internal af- 
fairs, and the Russian Government had retorted with re- 
marks about the state of Ireland. Nicolson told me that 
he had once, in friendly and informal talk, spoken to 
Stolypin, the Russian Minister, who effected a great land 
reform, about the disabilities of Jews in Russia. Stolypin 
had replied that he no more approved of these disabilities 
than British or other foreign critics did, but that, if he 
removed them, there would be pogroms all over Russia, 
which he would not be able to stop. 

To add to these difficulties there were attempts to sow 
suspicion of us in Russia, as the following letter of March 
26, 1906, to Spring-Rice (then Charge d’Affaires at St. 
Petersburg) shows: 

Sir E . Grey to Air . C . Spring-Rice 

March 26, 1906. 

Dear Spring-Rice, — Count Benckendorff has given us copies of 
a number of documents relating to a supposed secret agreement by 
which England and Japan guarantee the territorial integrity of the 
possessions of the Sultan of Turkey in Asia Minor, and bind themselves 
to help the Imperial Ottoman Government by their united forces against 
any attack upon the Ottoman Empire on the Asiatic side. 

The most circumstantial of these documents is a supposed telegram 
from Musurus Pasha, the Turkish Ambassador in London, to the first 
Secretary of the Sultan, dated January 29, 1906, in which Musurus 
states that I have just communicated to him the definitive text of the 
secret article to the above effect. 

No such article exists, there is no secret article or understanding of 
any kind between us and Japan ; the published alliance contains every- 
thing that has been agreed upon between us. The supposed guarantee 
of Turkey has never been mentioned between us and Japan, nor have 
we ever mentioned such a proposal to Musurus or at Constantinople, 
and we have undertaken no new engagement of any kind with regard 
to the Turkish Empire. If it is possible to make a denial more categori- 
cal than this I am quite ready to do it. 


What does interest me is the circumstantial character of the documents 
that have been supplied to the Russian Government. It has taken some 
trouble to invent them and there must have been a strong motive for 
doing this and conveying them to the Russian Government. But Count 
Lamsdorff is probably as well, or better, able than I am to guess their 
origin and motive. 

You may give a copy of this letter to Count Lamsdorff. 

E. Grey. 

Telegramme de Musurus Pasha au Premier Secretaire du Sultan 

Le Ministre des Affaires fitrangeres d’Angleterre vient de me 
communiquer le texte definitif de Particle secret additionnel au traite 
d’alliance Anglo- Japonais qui a ete etabli par lui de concert avec 
PAmbassadeur du Japon. Je vous transmet la traduction turque de cet 
article : 

“Les Gouvernements de Grande Bretagne et du Japon pour completer 
les stipulations du traite conclu entre elles le 12 Aout, 1905, sont 
tombes d’accord sur Particle suivant qu’ils prennent l’obligation de tenir 
strictement secret. Les Gouvernements de Grande Bretagne et du Japon 
declarent qu’ils garantissent l’integrite territoriale des possessions de Sa 
Majeste le Sultan en Asia Mineure et seront tenus de porter secours au 
Gouvernement Imperial Ottoman par leur forces reunies contre toute 
attaque dont l’Empire Ottoman serait l’objet du cote de l’Asie. Cet 
article additionnel et secret aura la meme force et valeur s’il etait mot 
par mot insere dans le texte du traite susmentionne du 12 Aout, 1905, 
et restera en vigueur pour la meme duree.” 

Les textes Frangais et Anglais de Particle precite ont ete expedies 
par l’Ambassadeur Turc a Londres par poste. 

I find two comments appended to the copy of this docu- 
ment, which was conveyed to the Prime Minister: 

There is a mystery about this affair. I do not believe that Musurus 
invented this telegram ; but someone has invented it, and given it to the 
Russians. This is the sort of thing that has gone on for years ; now for 
the first time the Russians are giving us the opportunity of exposing 
the lies. 

E. G. 

This last fact is worth all the lies put together. 

H. C.-B. 


r 54 

The last line here printed is Campbell-Bannerman’s very 
apposite comment. 

Nevertheless, it remained as essential as ever to come 
to some understanding with Russia. 

Our interests were so important and in such intimate 
contact in Asia that, without an understanding, there was 
bound to be friction increasing to the point of danger — a 
friction that was an increasing cause of weakness and in- 
security to the position of the British Empire. 

In 1907 negotiations were seriously taken in hand, and 
resulted in the “Convention signed on August 31, 1907, 
between Great Britain and Russia containing arrange- 
ments on the subject of Persia, Afghanistan, and Thibet.” 

The cardinal British object in these negotiations was to 
secure ourselves for ever, as far as a treaty could secure us, 
from further Russian advances in the direction of the 
Indian frontier. Russia was to cease threatening and 
annoying British interests concerned with India. This 
had been a formidable diplomatic weapon in her hands. 
She was now, once and for all, to give it up. The gain to 
us was great. We were freed from an anxiety that had 
often preoccupied British Governments; a frequent source 
of friction and a possible cause of war was removed; the 
prospect of peace was made more secure. 

What did Russia get in return? On paper it was an 
equal bargain. The part of Persia by which India could 
be approached was made secure from Russian penetration. 
The part of Persia by which Russia could be approached 
was secured from British penetration. The gain was 
equal — on paper. In practice we gave up nothing. We 
did not wish to pursue a forward policy in Persia; nor 
could a British advance in Persia have been the same 
menace to Russia that a Russian advance in Persia might 



be to India. It is no wonder that the Russian Foreign 
Minister had some difficulty in getting military authori- 
ties in Russia to give up something of real potential value 
to them, while we gave up what was of little or no practi- 
cal value to us. 

No attempt was made to include the whole Persian Gulf 
in the British sphere of interest: Russia had just been ex- 
cluded from warm water in the Far East as a result of the 
Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and it seemed to me unreason- 
able to try to turn the Anglo-Russian Agreement into an 
instrument for expressly excluding her from warm water 
in the Middle East. The Persian Gulf was kept outside 
her sphere, but left in the “neutral” sphere. Russia gained 
nothing as regards the Gulf by the Agreement, but her 
position was not made worse. Even so, the Agreement 
seemed to me one-sided. What we gained by it was real — 
what Russia gained was apparent. I remember asking 
someone in the Foreign Office who had special knowledge 
of Russia, whether the Russian Government were really 
afraid of a British forward policy and designs in 
Persia. He replied that he thought Russia really did 
fear them. It was difficult to believe that. I felt 
sure that, if Russia gave up every movement and every 
design that might embarrass us in Central Asia, she would 
sooner or later expect a modification of the British attitude 
towards her access to warm water. I did not expect her 
to bother about the Persian Gulf, but I thought it probable 
that at the first opportunity she would talk to us about the 
Straits in the Near East. 

Private letters of mine to Nicolson, then Ambassador 
at St. Petersburg, written in November 1906 and April 
1907 explain what was in my mind. I give two of them 


in full, though some sentences are not relevant to the par- 
ticular point that they are quoted to illustrate : 

Sir j E. Grey to Sir A. Nicolson 

Foreign Office, 

November 6, 1906. 

My dear Nicolson, — In answer to your despatch of November 
4, and your private letters on the same subject, I would say I see no 
objection to your giving to M. Isvolsky a sketch of an agreement as you 
propose, and one is being sent in a despatch. You should, however, 
make it clear to him that it does not pretend to be in treaty form, and 
is rather in the nature of an aide-memoire of what has been thrown out 
in conversation. 

I do not wish the negotiations to go to sleep. But, on the other 
hand, we must avoid raising in M. Isvolsky’s mind the suspicion that we 
wish to force the pace in order to take advantage of Russia’s present 

I should, however, omit the last paragraph from the draft which you 
propose. It is not essential to an arrangement with Russia that we 
should each of us become parties to a promise to prevent third Powers 
from obtaining concessions in the parts of Persia in which we have each 
of us respectively renounced influence ourselves. It would be enough 
that we should each agree not to seek or maintain influence in the 
specified district reserved for the other. After our arrangement with 
Russia was completed, we could obtain from Persia an undertaking not 
to make concessions which would have any political character to a third 
Power in our specified district. Russia could do the same for herself, 
and it would follow, from the arrangement which we and Russia had 
made, that neither of us would oppose the other in making these separate 
arrangements with the Persian Government. 

Such a settlement between Russia and us would give absolutely no 
opportunity or pretext to any other country for saying that the settlement 
had infringed the principle of the open door. 

Of course, I understand M. Isvolsky ’s difficulty with the military 
party. Seistan is, no doubt, a place of strategic importance in their 
eyes. But it is only of such importance if they wish to attack the 
Indian frontier, or to put pressure upon us by making us think that 
they intend to attack it. The benefit which we expect from an arrange- 



ment with Russia is that we should be set free from any such appre- 
hension, and this is precisely what we ask in the settlement. 

If, as you suppose, M. Isvolsky will say at this point, “But what 
is Russia to get in return,” you will naturally reply that she gets in a 
certain specified district the same security that we get in Seistan. He 
will then probably point out that our gain in this matter is much 
greater than that of Russia, who is not really disturbed by the appre- 
hension that aggression on our part in the north and north-west of 
Persia is practicable; and that he must, therefore, have a further quid 
pro quo with which to overcome the opposition of the military party, 
or at least to convince the Emperor that the opposition of the military 
party is unreasonable. But it is for him to say what it is he wants! 

Probably he already has something in his mind, but is hesitating to 
propose it. I think he should let us know what it is. If it is access to 
the Persian Gulf, that is a matter which should be referred to us for 
discussion. But I doubt, myself, whether any complete arrangement 
with Russia can be made unless it includes the Near East as well. It is 
the differences in the Near East that have been the original cause of the 
hostility and friction between Russia and us. 

So far as the Russian Government are aware officially our attitude 
in the Near East has not been changed. But it is not for us to propose 
changes with regard to the treaty conditions of the Dardanelles. I 
think some change in the direction desired by Russia would be admissible, 
and we should be prepared to discuss the question if Russia introduces it. 
If M. Isvolsky mentions it you might, therefore, say that it is a matter 
on which you are at present without instructions to speak to him, but 
which you will refer home. I enclose for your own information only a 
departmental memorandum on the Dardanelles. It shows that much 
may be possible, but it must not be taken yet as committing even me, 
much less the Cabinet, who have not seen it. 

The difficulty is, of course, that the question of the Dardanelles con- 
cerns the other Powers of Europe. Our settlement with Russia, when 
completed, will have to be published, and so important a matter as a 
promise on our part to give diplomatic support in favour of any modifi- 
cation of a European treaty could not be introduced as a secret article. 
The fact that this is so makes it proper that M. Isvolsky, and not we, 
should be the first to mention the matter; it cannot be pressed without 
raising a European question, which it is Russia’s interest, and not ours, 



to raise, though we might no longer object to seeing it reopened as we 
should have objected a few years ago. 

The sketch of a Persian agreement is founded upon yours, but the 
preamble was expanded by John Morley, and Hardinge has used the 
Anglo-Russian China Railway Agreement as a model for the rest, so 
as to introduce terms already familiar to Russia. 

I fear the temporary ascendency of the reactionary party round the 
Tsar will not make the atmosphere favourable for these negotiations of 

E. G. 

Sir E. Grey to Sir A. Nicolson , St. Petersburg 

Foreign Office, 

April I, 1907. 

My dear Nicolson, — My days are so full when the House of 
Commons is sitting that I have not written to you as I intended. I 
rely upon Hardinge to keep you informed. 

You need not fear delay on our side about Afghanistan. I spoke to 
Morley about it, and when a satisfactory Asiatic Agreement is in shape, 
I think he will be prepared to agree and to settle with the Amir after- 
wards, without hanging the whole thing up for communications with the 

It is important that our negotiations should be concluded practically 
pari passu with the Japanese negotiations. I have impressed upon 
Komura that the two ought now to proceed simultaneously, though there 
should be nothing tripartite about them. 

It would be much better not to bring the Dardanelles and Bosphorus 
into this Asiatic Agreement, for the reasons I gave in my conversation 
with Benckendorff. I thought it better to give Benckendorff my record 
of that conversation, to avoid misunderstandings afterwards. The fact 
is, that if Asiatic things are settled favourably the Russians will not 
have trouble with us about the entrance to the Black Sea; but France, 
at any rate, must be taken into confidence before we make engagements, 
and we should expect Russia’s support about some Egyptian and other 
kindred things in the Near East, which matter to us and are not 
important to her. 

The real rock ahead is the prospect in Russia itself. If the Duma 
is dissolved, and there is a regime of pogroms and courts martial, 
feeling here will be very adverse. We could carry a settlement of 



Asiatic frontier questions in any case, but I don’t think we could do 
more if things were very bad in Russia, for there would be resentment 
at our choosing this time to make a concession about the Straits. But 
this would not be the worst consequence of reaction in Russia; the 
worst is that things would be said in Parliament, and in our Press, 
which would mightily offend the Czar and the Russian Government, 
and might make it impossible for you to make progress at St. Petersburg. 

I see no objection to an arbitration agreement of the usual kind, of 
which we have made so many, being added to any agreement with 
Russia, if she wishes it ; it would be popular here. 

1 will try to keep the “Knight Commander” 1 case quiet in Parliament 
for the present, and the other also; but they must go to arbitration 
eventually, if Russia will not settle them without. — Yours sincerely, 

E. Grey. 

The question of the Straits was not mixed up with those 
Anglo-Russian negotiations about Persia. The Agree- 
ment was completed and signed in August 1907 without 
any secret article or secret understanding whatever. 

The question of the Straits was, however, raised by 
Isvolsky, the Russian Foreign Minister, when he came to 
London in the autumn of 1908, and was then carefully 
considered by the Government, as will be related in a 
further chapter. 2 

The following letter from me to Campbell-Bannerman 
announces the conclusion of the Agreement: 

Sir E. Grey to the Prime Minister 

August 31, 1907. 

My dear Sir Henry, — You will have seen, by the telegrams, that 
the Russian Agreement is being signed. The Russians have eventually 
accepted the proposal which was agreed upon after consultation between 
Morley, Ritchie, Nicolson, Hardinge, and myself. Nicolson went 

1 A Liverpool-owned British steamer sunk by a Russian cruiser off Vladivo- 
stok in July 1904. The controversy, about compensation for her owners and 
crew, lasted till March, 1911. 

2 See infra, pp. 171-81. 



back with it to St. Petersburg; Isvolsky would not have it at first, 
but has eventually found in it a compromise with his own opponents 
in the Council of Ministers at St. Petersburg. 

Nicolson has, as usual, been invaluable, never missing a point, and 
with excellent judgment. So has Hardinge, with his knowledge both 
of the Russian Government and of Persia, and his clear view as to 
the good policy of an agreement. 

But without Morley we should have made no progress at all, for 
the Government of India would have blocked every point and Morley 
has removed mountains in the path of the negotiations. 

I am having the final text printed and translated to be circulated to 
the Cabinet confidentially. We hope to defer publication to give the 
Indian Government time to make a communication to the Amir. — Yours, 

E. Grey. 

The Agreement dealt with Persia, Afghanistan, and 
Thibet. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the clauses that 
refer to the two last countries : they gave no trouble after- 
wards, and those that concerned Persia will be found in 
the published papers. 

In its primary and cardinal object, the security of the 
Indian frontier, the Agreement was completely success- 
ful. There were no more nerves or apprehensions about 
that. Thus was the real raison d’etre and the achievement 
of it the real justification of the Agreement. 

But a long train of minor troubles followed. 

It had been my hope to conclude and publish the Agree- 
ment before Parliament rose ; but the negotiations dragged 
on and were not finished till Parliament was on the eve 
of adjournment. When the Agreement was signed the 
Indian Government very naturally demanded that publi- 
cation should be delayed, till they had had time to com- 
municate it, with their own explanations, to the Amir of 
Afghanistan. Publication was therefore delayed for some 



weeks for this reason, and when it was seen that the Agree- 
ment had been concluded while Parliament was still 
sitting, and not published till after Parliament had risen, 
the charge was brought that publication had been 
deliberately withheld to keep the House of Commons 
in the dark. It was one of the instances in which a per- 
fectly plain and straightforward account has to be given 
with the certainty that it will be treated as a pretext and 
not accepted as a valid reason. 

Persia did not like agreements between Britain and 
Russia; she had regarded enmity between her two great 
neighbours as her security, and was used to playing off one 
against the other. The opportunity for that sport had 
come to an end. 

The real cause of trouble, however, was that the “in- 
tegrity and independence” of Persia, so tenderly cherished 
in the Preamble, did not in practice exist when the Agree- 
ment was made. Persia was honeycombed by concessions, 
particularly to Russia for telegraphs, Cossack officers, 
roads, and so forth; she owed money to Russia and to 
Britain, and some of her revenues were pledged as se- 
curity; she was in want of more money; her finances were 
in disorder; her internal troubles frequently threatened 
the lives or property of foreigners in outlying districts, 
and thus compelled, or at any rate invited, interference to 
protect them. This latter consideration applied parti- 
cularly to the parts near the Russian frontier and in the 
Russian zone of interest. I had never expected that the 
Agreement would diminish Russian activity in the north 
of Persia. It was impossible that the hands of the clock, 
which had already marked so much time in the lapse of 
Persian independence, should be put back, but I hoped 
that the clock might be stopped. And so in a sense it was, 



for the Russians kept their interference strictly to the 
north. Russian Foreign Ministers, freed from the appre- 
hension of British rivalry at Teheran, were ready to be 
easy and to go slow, but Russian agents were apt to regard 
themselves as having a free hand in the Russian sphere, 
and in that sphere things were frequently done that were 
not consistent with “integrity and independence.” Both 
Isvolsky and Sazonof, who succeeded him, did what 
they could to keep Russian agents within bounds; but 
Russian Government was a despotism without discipline. 
Different Ministers and different diplomatic agents pur- 
sued different politics. Russian agents were of all sorts; 
some were able and clever; some were not; some accepted 
a friendly policy towards Britain, some did not; some 
meant well, some did not, and some meant nothing at all. 
Had the Tsar been a Caesar, a Cromwell, or a Napoleon 
he might have brought this chaos into order and dis- 
cipline, or he might have perished in the attempt. The 
successive Foreign Ministers, I believe, did what they 
could, but incidents frequently occurred in Persia of 
which we were bound to complain. My remonstrances 
were sometimes strong, and the Russian Foreign Minister 
would get restive. Members of the House of Commons 
got restive because they thought my remonstrances were 
not strong enough. These were, as a matter of fact, often 
too strong to be published, if friendly relations were to be 

Russian conduct in Persia was not different from what 
it had been before the Anglo-Russian Agreement; the 
trouble now was that this conduct was held to concern us 
in a way that it had not done before. In previous days 
British Governments had not been held responsible for 
Russian dealings with Persia : all they had been required 



to do was to guard against the defence of India being 
prejudiced by what happened in Persia. Now we were 
partners with Russia in an Agreement that purported to 
maintain the integrity and independence of Persia. This 
gave us technically a title, might indeed be said to impose 
upon us an obligation, to restrain or influence the conduct 
of our partner. There was constant trouble in the House 
of Commons, and sometimes it seemed as if the Agree- 
ment would end by making matters worse between Britain 
and Russia than they had been before. The Russian view 
of the situation was that, as long as they kept to their own 
sphere and we were secure on the Indian side, they ought 
not to be worried. 

Very disagreeable trouble arose about Persian finance. 
Persian finance was hopeless without Western advice. 
Finance was not the strong point of Russians; a British 
financial adviser in Teheran, the Russian sphere, was out 
of the question. European advisers would be suspected, 
certainly by Russia and probably by us, of using influence 
in favour of their own countries, perhaps of furthering 
some political policy. I suggested the choice of an Ameri- 
can, who would be outside all politics. The Russians did 
not like it, but they agreed, and Mr. Shuster was invited 
to Teheran. Had he accepted the situation as he found 
it at Teheran, and made the best of it, he would, in spite 
of all difficulties and drawbacks, have done much for 
Persian finance; but his method was that of “Hands off ” 
to Britain and Russia. As far as we were concerned, we 
should not have minded. A strong, independent Persia 
was what we desired, though we knew it to be impossible. 
To the Russians, however, Mr. Shuster’s method meant 
the destruction in their own sphere of the position to 
which for generations they had been accustomed. It 



presently became evident that, to avoid a Russian occupa- 
tion of Teheran, Mr. Shuster must leave it. His departure 
was a loss, but it was the lesser of the two evils. His aims 
were admirable and just, but he had not realized that 
Russian interference in the north of Persia could only be 
ousted by force; that Britain was not prepared to embark 
on a great European war for that purpose, and that 
Britain was the only country that had any interest in 
seeing Russia restrained. He attempted what was good, 
but what could only be done by force; and there was no 
force available for the purpose. 

Persia tried my patience more than any other subject. 
I once told Benckendorff that if Russia made things too 
difficult the policy of friendly agreement with her might 
become impossible. In that case I should resign, for I 
could not myself pursue any other policy, and if Russia 
made this policy impossible I should leave it to someone 
else to adopt and pursue another. 

I have traced some of the after-history of this Anglo- 
Russian Agreement in order that the narrative of other 
events may not be interrupted later on by having to recur 
to it. I return now to its beginning. 

When Parliament met again there was a debate on it in 
the House of Commons. The Agreement was accepted, 
but with some criticism from the Conservative Opposi- 
tion, that it was not sufficiently favourable to British in- 
terests. It was explained by me and defended with force 
and breadth of view by John Morley. 

One pleasant incident may be recalled in connexion 
;with it. When Isvolsky was in London after its conclu- 
sion, I asked Benckendorff to bring him to dine at my 
house, then in Queen Anne’s Gate. John Morley and 
Hardinge were the only other guests. We talked long 



and freely, and this Anglo-Russian Agreement was, so far 
as I recollect, the main subject of conversation. I was a 
little apprehensive about this entertainment; my manner 
of living had every comfort, but there was no state about 
it, no formality, no men-servants, no party, nothing to do 
honour to the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs. 
There was a question in my mind whether he would con- 
sider the homeliness of his entertainment a compliment 
or a slight. I heard afterwards that he considered the 
informality a compliment, and said to Benckendorff when 
they went away together, “I believe now what you have 
told me; these people are really friendly.” 

Isvolsky ceased to be Minister for Foreign Affairs long 
before the war, and I had communication with him only 
twice after he left St. Petersburg. The impression made 
by what has since come to light about his doings as Am- 
bassador at Paris is far from favourable; but, as Minister 
at St. Petersburg, he did his best under considerable diffi- 
culties to work the Anglo-Russian Agreement with Persia, 
Afghanistan, and Thibet in the spirit in which it was 
made and intended. 

The other transaction of importance that I had with 
him concerned the Straits. It was dealt with when he 
came to London in 1908, when he was in sore trouble over 
the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 
his controversy thereon with d’Aehrenthal, then Minister 
for Foreign Affairs at Vienna. 




Russia, Austria, and Balkan Policy — The Young Turk Revolution — 
An Austrian Announcement — The British Attitude — The Open- 
ing of the Straits — A Russian Demand — Isvolsky’s Explanations at 
Cowes — Serbian Demand for Compensation — A Serious Situation 
— Russian Support and its Withdrawal — Consternation in Russia 
— A Charge Refuted — An Ominous Parallel — The Question of 
the Congo — Humanitarianism and Politics — Cabinet Differences — 
The Eight Dreadnoughts. 

I T would be impossible, without a whole additional 
volume, to give anything like a full account of the 
years that intervened between 1907 and 1914, nor is 
it necessary to do this. The line in which British foreign 
policy was moving has already been explained : we con- 
tinued to follow that line. All that need be done is to give 
a condensed account of two or three of the more striking 
incidents or crises. 

The various efforts to improve Turkish government in 
Macedonia have little interest and no importance now. 
They were intolerably wearisome, very disagreeable, and 
painfully futile. We took an active part in them, but our 
motive was disinterested. Had we considered our politi- 
cal interest, we should have left the question alone. As I 
have already explained, our activity in protesting against 
Turkish misrule diminished our influence and was there- 
fore adverse to British commercial interests in Turkey. 
But humanitarian feeling in Britain and the persisting 
sympathy for Christian populations under Turkish rule 




was so strong that British political and material interests 
were overborne by it. All the sympathy of British Secre- 
taries for Foreign Affairs was with this sentiment, and 
their action was inspired by this motive, though each suc- 
cessive occupant of the Foreign Office may well have felt 
choked by despair of achieving any measure of success. 
Macedonian Reforms could be dealt with only in concert 
with other Powers. Not one of the other Powers was 
disinterested; not one of them believed that Britain was 
disinterested. Each was conscious of some political mo- 
tive of its own, and they all invented some political motive 
that was attributed to us. 

Prestige and influence in the Balkans were cardinal 
points of Russian and Austrian policy. Neither could af- 
ford to risk its position for philanthropic reasons: each 
watched the other, and their action in Macedonian diplo- 
macy was conditioned by distrust of each other and anx- 
iety lest one should get an advantage at the expense of 
the other. Both regarded our activity as a more or less 
unreasonable encroachment upon a sphere in which they 
had direct political interests and we had none. 

Germany was thinking only of her political influence 
and the commercial expansion, that depended on it, in 
Turkey. She would risk none of this for the sake of 
philanthropy, and took care to handle the subject of 
Macedonia in such a way that what we or other Powers 
lost by annoying the Sultan at Constantinople should go to 
enhance the German position there. 

France, just escaped from trouble about Morocco and 
apprehensive of more to come, wished to avoid trouble 
elsewhere. She too had her commercial interests at Con- 
stantinople, and she was neither inclined nor could she 
afford to head a crusade against the Sultan of Turkey. 


In the middle sat the Sultan, Abdul Hamid, well aware of 
every element in the situation, resenting the worry that 
was caused for him, but sure that with a combination 
on his part of tact and obstinacy the result would always 
be stalemate. In these conditions the question of Mace- 
donian Reforms was like a bog; the Powers who plunged 
into it soon sank up to their knees and stuck there, bicker- 
ing with each other. The whole region has passed over 
from Turkey, and there is no need here to justify, criticize, 
or give an account of the part that we and others took in 
trying to improve or mitigate Turkish rule in Macedonia. 

In 1908 came the Young Turk Revolution, and the 
power of Abdul Hamid and his detestable camarilla was 
overthrown. The first news we received of the Revolu- 
tion were touching in the account they gave of joy and 
good-will. For a moment the subject races in European 
Turkey seemed to lose their hatred of the Turk and of 
each other. I sympathized with the enthusiasm, and was 
keen that the new order should have every chance. Those 
who knew Turkey well warned us that the “young” Turks, 
men like Enver and Talaat, were much like the “old” 
Turks, but it was so pleasant to indulge the larger hope 
that I would not heed these warnings. The sequel 
destroyed the hopes and underlined the warnings. The 
history of the French Revolution, the experience in our 
own time of the Turkish and the Russian Revolutions, 
show that, bad as despotism is, doomed as it is to work its 
own ruin, the first-fruits of its overthrow are not love and 

I was still, however, in the stage of hope and sympathy 
with young Turks, when, in the autumn of 1908, Austria 
announced that she had changed the occupation of Bosnia 
and Herzegovina into annexation. Turkey was indeed 


to be given the Sandjak as compensation, but Austria’s 
act and decision were quite arbitrary. Turkey had not 
been consulted, or asked to consent, and the change was 
therefore a blow to Turkish prestige. A cruel blow it 
seemed to the budding hopes of better things in Turkey. 
Besides this, it was the alteration of a European Treaty 
to which other Powers as well as Turkey were parties. 
To us the territorial changes were indifferent: it mattered 
not to us that Austria should annex instead of merely 
occupying Bosnia and Herzegovina; but, besides sym- 
pathy with the new hope in Turkey, we felt that the arbi- 
trary alteration of a European Treaty by one Power with- 
out the consent of the other Powers who were parties to 
it struck at the root of all good international order. We 
therefore took a very firm stand on principle, and said 
that, though our interests were not involved, we would 
not recognize Austria’s action, and the change she had 
made, till all the other Powers, who were parties to the 
treaty, were ready to do so. Russia was offended, Turkey 
was protesting; we would do nothing to make it difficult 
for Austria to get their consent, but she must get it, before 
we would recognize the change in the treaty. 

The following documents will suffice to show the line 
taken by us from the first. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. G os chert 

Foreign Office, 

October 5, 1908. 

With regard to Baron d’Aehrenthal’s letter of the 28th ultimo to 
Sir E. Hardinge, which I have seen, His Excellency should be reminded 
that Austria-Hungary is a party to the Treaty of London, and conse- 
quently to the Protocol of January 17, 1871, which is attached to it. 
In this it is stipulated that the engagements into which any Power 
has entered can only be broken or modified with the full assent of the 
Contracting Parties, and after a friendly agreement has been arrived 


at. A deliberate violation or alteration of the Berlin Treaty, undertaken 
without previous consultation with the other Powers, of which in this 
case Turkey is the most affected, could never be approved or recognized 
by His Majesty’s Government. This should be represented to the 
Austrian Government, and you should impress upon them how necessary 
it is that their decision to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina should be 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir A. Nicolson 

Foreign" Office, 

October 5, 1908. 

It is the general feeling here that the new Turkish regime is deserving 
of consideration, and that it has met with bad treatment. 

The situation is complicated, and needs careful handling, and we 
cannot yet approach the Russian Government on the subject; but the 
following is the line of action which I would wish to follow: 

If my expectations are not deceived, Turkey, while merely protesting 
against the action of Austria and Bulgaria, will claim some compensation 
for herself. In this case, I hope that we shall find ourselves in line with 
the Russian Government in adopting an attitude friendly to the Porte 
in the negotiations which will take place among the Powers. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Lowther 

Foreign Office, 

October 5, 1908. 

Rifaat Pasha has been informed by me that, in regard to both the 
above questions, our answer will be that the alteration of an Interna- 
tional Treaty by any one Power, without the consent of the other 
Contracting Parties, cannot be considered by us to be within the rights 
of that Power; and until we know the opinions of the other Powers, 
and especially those of Turkey, to whom the question is more important 
than to anyone else, the action of Austria and Bulgaria cannot be 

I said that Turkey had, in my opinion, suffered bad treatment; 
that we were thoroughly convinced of the peaceful motives, devotion 
to internal reforms, and integrity of the new regime, which com- 
manded our fullest sympathy. Rifaat Pasha consulted me as to whether 
a declaration of war was advisable. I replied that, in my opinion, 
the new regime could not possibly profit by war. Turkey, at present, 



required chiefly money and time. By going to war she would lose both. 
Turkey suffered no tangible loss through the annexation of the two 
provinces to Austria, or through the Bulgarian declaration of inde- 
pendence, although, as far as prestige and sentiment were concerned, 
both these steps were injurious ; in the event of a protest, or, later on, 
of a demand on the part of Turkey for compensation, any proposals 
which secured that her interests were fairly considered would have our 
support. Rifaat Pasha enquired as to the possible nature of such com- 
pensation, to which I replied that I was uncertain whether it would be 
practicable to give a money indemnity, and if it would be acceptable 
to the Porte; I only wished to suggest that the matter should be con- 
sidered in this light, because in my opinion Turkey had been badly 
treated, and, although His Majesty’s Government would not suggest it, 
the present complications might result in the meeting of a Conference, 
at which we should hope to see her interests duly considered. 

To this position we adhered, and in the end Turkey re- 
ceived compensation in money and accepted the change 
of the status quo that had been made by the Austrian an- 
nexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by Bulgaria’s 
change from a Principality to a Kingdom. 

Another more difficult and more delicate question for 
us was that of the opening of the Straits. The Tsar came 
on his yacht to visit King Edward at Cowes. Isvolsky 
came with him, and, in a long informal talk with Asquith 
and me, Isvolsky expounded his grievance against Baron 
d’Aehrenthal, the Austrian Foreign Minister. Isvolsky 
held forth to us at great length, and with energy and 
point. He spoke in English, and the performance in a 
foreign language was an impressive tour de force. 
Asquith commented to me on it as a remarkable feat; but 
we were not concerned with or required to take a hand 
in Isvolsky’s personal grievance against d’Aehrenthal. 
Isvolsky came on to London and there propounded the 
question of opening the Straits. He may have had this 
in view from the beginning, and may have allowed him- 


self to be compromised by d’Aehrenthal about Bosnia and 
Herzegovina, in order to raise the question of the Straits 
with effect; or he may have rushed to it for compensation, 
after finding himself compromised. It did not matter 
to us which of these hypotheses was correct. I had fore- 
seen from the beginning that, if we were to maintain 
friendly relations with Russia, we must abandon the 
policy of blocking her access to the sea. I was therefore 
prepared to discuss the matter. 

But the moment was very inopportune. Turkey was 
hurt and sore at the slight put upon her by Austria and 
Bulgaria. It was hard enough that she should suffer this 
at the outset of what we hoped was a new and better era 
at Constantinople. We could not agree to add to her hard- 
ships by forcing upon her at once the embarrassing ques- 
tion of the Straits. If, later on, the consent of Turkey 
was obtained, this must be by satisfactory voluntary agree- 
ment and not by pressure or squeeze. 

There was also a difficulty not of time, but inherent in 
the conditions on which the Straits should be open. A 
simple opening of the Straits to all ships of war of all 
nations would enable foreign fleets to assemble in the 
Black Sea at any time: this would not suit Russia at all, 
and would in fact be very disagreeable to her. On the 
other hand, we would not agree to Russian ships of war 
having the sole and exclusive right of passage through the 
Straits in time of war, when Turkey was neutral. 

The following documents will illustrate the course of 
my conversation with Isvolsky. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir A. Nicolson 

Foreign Office, 

October 12, 1 908. 

The following proposals have been made by Russian Minister for 



Foreign Affairs for subjects to be discussed in limited Conference. 
If they are considered acceptable by Turkey and the other Powers 
we are prepared to agree to them. 

The Conference should not deal with Dardanelles question, which 
Russia and Turkey should discuss privately, Turkey’s consent being 
necessary before any change could be made. M. Isvolsky wishes to 
secure for Russia and the other States bordering on the Black Sea the 
right of using the Dardanelles for not more than three warships at 
once, on the condition that they agree not to anchor or stop there. He 
desires a promise from us not to oppose this arrangement, but it seems 
to me too one-sided to commend itself to public opinion here; in time 
of war, at any rate, reciprocal rights would be looked for; without 
some such arrangements, Mediterranean shipping would be in danger 
from warships, which could make raids upon them from the Black Sea, 
and take refuge either there or in the Dardanelles, whither they could 
not be pursued. 

It is not, we think, the moment to discuss the Dardanelles question, 
which might make it appear as if Russia were pursuing selfish motives 
in profiting by the recent events and concluding a bargain with Austria. 

The attitude of Russian officials with regard to events in Persia is 
also unpopular here. 

Matters would be facilitated if public opinion could be convinced that 
reform in Turkey met with the warm approval of Russia. 

If Russia were to join disinterestedly in settling the Near Eastern 
crisis to the advantage of Turkey, public opinion here would become 
more favourably disposed to her. His Majesty’s Government see great 
difficulty in securing the acceptance here of a one-sided arrangement 
as to the Dardanelles, though they are quite prepared to agree to the 
opening of the Straits under proper safeguards. I should be glad 
to receive any information with regard to the feeling prevalent in 
Russia on the subject which you may be able to supply. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir A . Nicolson 

Foreign Office, 

October 12, 1908. 

Sir, — After the meeting of the Cabinet to-day I saw M. Isvolsky 
and told him that, though I wished to examine in the Department the 
details of his programme for a Conference, it had been generally 
approved by the Cabinet. 



He then discussed what the next step should be. In his opinion 
it was desirable that a Conference should be announced as soon as 
possible, and, after considering various capitals, he expressed a strong 
opinion in favour of Rome as the most suitable meeting-place. He also 
asked me what was my view as to the way in which the invitations to 
the Conference should be issued — for instance, should Russia, France, 
and England jointly send them out? 

I said I thought it would be very desirable to ascertain the views of 
Germany before issuing any invitations. Count Metternich had told 
me the desire of the German Government was to secure as fair terms as 
possible for Turkey and to smooth things over. If we issued the in- 
vitations without consulting her we might not have her good-will. So 
far as I could see, there was nothing in the programme to which 
Germany could object reasonably; and, by first ascertaining whether 
the programme met with her acceptance, we should prevent an apparent 
division of the Powers into two camps before the opening of the 

M. Isvolsky dwelt upon the difficulty of getting Austria to accept the 
programme, as it included the discussion of the subject of Bosnia. 

I suggested that, as the German Government wished to smooth 
things over, they would probably be able to arrange this. 

It would be necessary to ascertain whether Turkey accepted the 

M. Isvolsky then asked me what I had to tell him about the 

I told him frankly that the opinion of the Cabinet was that it would 
be very difficult, if not impossible, to get public opinion here to 
accept a one-sided arrangement about the Straits. At the time of the 
Anglo-Russian Convention we had contemplated that, in the course of 
time, confidence would grow up between England and Russia and make 
a favourable arrangement possible. But I found that, for instance, the 
action of Russian officers in Persia in suppressing the Constitution had 
created an unfavourable effect on public opinion here. I heard to-day 
that Russian officers were being sent with Cossack troops to put down 
the Nationalists at Tabreez. This, again, would make an unfavourable 
impression. People here would be still further unfavourably impressed 
if Russia sought advantages to herself from the present crisis in the 
Near East. If we came to a one-sided arrangement, which people here 
would argue necessitated an increase of our naval force in the Mediter- 



ranean, and if we altered an international treaty very greatly to the 
advantage of Russia, and to what would be considered our disadvantage, 
without getting anything in return, we should be making a concession 
which it would be very difficult to defend here at this moment. 

I therefore thought the time was very inopportune. 

M. Isvolsky dwelt upon the entire change of Russian feeling towards 
Turkey. Russia now desired to support Turkey as a barrier against 
the Austrian advance. 

I suggested that Russia might demonstrate her good-will to Turkey 
by working for such a settlement of the present crisis as would safe- 
guard Turkish interests without any direct advantage to Russia herself — 
that would create a very good impression here. 

As a detail, I pointed out the disadvantage it would be to us if, 
in time of war, when Turkey was at peace, one or two cruisers could 
come out through the Straits and harry British commerce without our 
being able to pursue them back into the Black Sea. 

M. Isvolsky again dwelt with emphasis upon the unfortunate conse- 
quences which must follow if, once more, when there was an oppor- 
tunity for settling the question of the Straits in favour of Russia, 
England opposed, and this time her opposition alone prevented a 

I could only repeat that I saw great difficulties in any arrangement 
which was not reciprocal. 

M. Isvolsky asked me what he was to telegraph to St. Petersburg 
— was he to telegraph a refusal ? 

I told him I had explained the difficulties which the Government felt 
in their way. We had had only a very short time to consider the 
matter, and I suggested that he should turn over the difficulties in his 
own mind before we considered the subject as closed. — I am, etc. 

E. Grey. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir A. Nicolson 

Foreign Office, 

October 13, 1908. 

Sir, — Late in the evening of the 12th I had some further conversa- 
tion with M. Isvolsky about the question of the Dardanelles. 

He told me that the point I had put to him, as to Russian cruisers 
being able to come out through the Straits into the Mediterranean in 


time of war and being able to retire again into the Straits free from 
pursuit, had not occurred to him. He thought it might be met by a 
provision that, in time of war, when Turkey was neutral, she should 
observe her neutrality by giving equal facilities for passage through the 
Straits to all the belligerents. 

I impressed upon him very strongly that I had no wish to send 
him away with the idea that we could not entertain any proposal about 
the Straits. 

M. Isvolsky observed that the French Press were entirely on the side 
of opening the Straits. 

I told him I had not given him the negative answer which he had 
deprecated. On the other hand, it was very difficult to give a positive 
answer, such as he had asked, for the reasons I had stated in the after- 
noon. The Cabinet felt that the time was exceedingly inopportune, and 
that they could not get public opinion here to accept at this moment a 
one-sided arrangement. I could satisfy the French Press any day, by 
saying that we entirely agreed with their view, which was that the 
Straits should be open on the same terms for all. But I should not help 
matters between Russia and us by so doing, for this view was one which 
was disliked by Russia. 

I again impressed on M. Isvolsky the advantage of settling the present 
crisis in the Near East satisfactorily without seeking advantages for 
Russia or England. 

I admitted that the proposal he had made as to equality in time 
of war did introduce an element of reciprocity, which had not been 
before the Cabinet, and which I would submit to them. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

The following despatch, which covers more ground, is 
perhaps worth printing here: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir A . Nicolson 

Foreign Office, 

October 14, 1908. 

Sir. — M. Isvolsky arrived in London on the 9th instant and called 
upon me at the Foreign Office on the 10th instant. 

His Excellency began his conversation with me by a long explana- 
tion of what had passed between him and Baron d’Aehrenthal. 

1 77 


It was, in substance, what I had already heard, but he spoke very 
frankly of Baron d’Aehrenthal as being tortuous and insincere and 
always wishing to compromise the person with whom he was dealing. 
It was not true that he (M. Isvolsky) had given his consent in advance 
to what Austria had done about Bosnia. He had simply exchanged 
views, and had intended to discuss in Paris and London, afterwards, 
the possibility of the annexation of Bosnia by Austria and the conse- 
quences of such an eventuality. Meanwhile, this had been sprung 
upon him. 

He made the most of the compensation offered by Austria as regards 
Novi-Bazar. In Austrian hands this would have prepared the way for 
an advance, and have been a wedge driven into the Slav States. 

He emphasized the fact that these breaches of the International 
Treaty should be dealt with by a Conference, and he proposed that 
a Conference should be announced as soon as possible with a definite 
programme to deal with Bulgarian independence, Bosnia, Herzegovina, 
Novi-Bazar and Montenegro. 

But it would not be enough simply to ratify what had already been 
done; that would not secure enough compensation either for Turkey or 
the other Balkan States. 

Bulgaria had shown, in this matter, no consideration for Russian 
wishes, and Russia was prepared to be stiff in dealing with her. It 
might be arranged at the Conference that Bulgaria should pay for the 
Eastern Roumelian tribute and the railway. Serbia might have some 
rectification of her frontier, but it must not be at the expense of 
Turkey. There might also be a revision of the regulations about the 
Danube which would put the Balkan States on a more favourable 
footing; this would be in the nature of compensation to them at the 
expense of Austria. For Turkey, the hope might be held out that, if 
things went well, the Financial Commission and the joint right of 
superintendence given to the Powers with regard to Macedonia and 
Armenia by treaty would be done away with ; and that the Capitulations 
also would be altered, if the Turkish Government justified such a 

Russia would not raise the question of the Straits at the Conference. 

M. Isvolsky urged very strongly that, if Russia could satisfy Turkey 
that an arrangement about the Straits was safe for Turkish interests, 
England should not oppose it. He told me that there had been great 
opposition in Russia to the Anglo-Russian Convention. He had had to 


spend great energy in getting it accepted in Russia. All the Liberal and 
advanced elements in Russia were in favour of an understanding with 
England; but the reactionary elements were against it, and would 
like to upset the Convention. The Emperor was, by training and 
education, not on the Liberal side. It was possible to keep him reconciled 
to reforms in Russia only by proving to him that things were going 
better ; for instance, whereas, two years ago, there was a state of active 
revolution, the state of affairs was now much improved. In the same 
way it would be fatal to a good understanding with England if, when 
the question of the Straits were raised, it was found that England 
blocked the way and that no improvement followed from good relations 
with England. 

His proposal to Turkey would be that ships of war belonging to 
the Riverain Powers on the Black Sea should have a right of way 
through the Straits. There might be regulations that not more than 
three vessels should go through at a time, and that no other vessels 
should go through for twenty-four hours after the first. Such regula- 
tions would, of course, only apply in times when Turkey was at peace. 
In time of war, Turkey would be able to do as she pleased. 

In other words, the closing of the Straits would be maintained, sub- 
ject to a limited serviture of this kind, in favour of Russia and the 
Riverain States. 

M. Isvolsky went on to say that the present was a most critical 
moment. It might either consolidate and strengthen the good relations 
between England and Russia, or it might upset them altogether. His 
own position was at stake, for he was entirely bound up with the policy 
of a good understanding with England, which he had advocated against 
all opposition. 

I asked him to give me a draft of what he proposed with regard 
to the Conference, so that I might have something definite to put before 
the Cabinet; this he promised to do. 

I said I realized how critical the moment was. We were most 
anxious to work with Russia. We were in favour of the new regime in 
Turkey, not in order that we might support Turkey against Russia, 
but because we regarded an independent and well-governed Turkey 
as the only alternative to anarchy and confusion. 

M. Isvolsky said the Russian desire now was to be friendly with 
Turkey. They did not wish to have Constantinople for themselves; it 
was not a place which could be held like Gibraltar ; it had to be made 


a capital; they could not make it their own capital, and they would 
not wish to see it in any hands but those of Turkey. Therefore they 
wished to have a peaceful and well-governed Turkey, with whom they 
could be friendly. 

I told him I recognized the Russian feeling about the Straits ; but 
the proposal he had now put before me was not the same as that which 
Count Benckendorff had discussed with me at the time of the Anglo- 
Russian Convention. The proposal then had been that, while Russia 
should have egress from the Black Sea through the Straits, other Powers 
should have liberty to send their vessels of war into the Straits 
without going into the Black Sea. 

M. Isvolsky pointed out that, as Russia would not ask for any right to 
stay in the Straits, it would be useless to grant a right of access to the 
Straits without staying there and without going on into the Black 
Sea. But he was not putting the proposal before me now on the ground 
that I had made any promise previously. He was putting it forward 
from the point of view of good relations. 

If Russia did not make the proposal now it might be blocked by 
Germany or Austria at some* future time ; and he hoped that, if Russia 
could get the consent of Turkey voluntarily to an arrangement such 
as he had suggested, we would not oppose it. 

I told M. Isvolsky I must have time to consult the Prime Minister 
and my colleagues, who had seen the proposal made some time ago, but to 
whom this would be quite new. 

I urged that some immediate proof of confidence in the new regime in 
Turkey and good-will to it should be shown by offering a guaranteed 
loan if Turkey desired it. This would at once produce a general feeling 
of confidence and tranquillity. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

Eventually a memorandum embodying our views about 
the Straits was given to Isvolsky; he was partially, though 
not completely, pacified, and the question of the Straits 
was for the time allowed to rest. 

There came upon us all, however, another and more 
formidable affair. Serbia demanded compensation for 
the change in the status quo made by Austria, to the dis- 



advantage, as Serbia considered, of her own interests. 
We thought a demand by Serbia for territory would not 
be reasonable, but that some economic concession to fa- 
cilitate the transport of Serbian exports to the Adriatic 
might provide an innocent solution. 

Serbia was obstinate and headstrong, Austria was 
haughty, hard and stern. How serious the situation be- 
came will appear from the following telegram from me 
to Nicolson — 

Sir E. Grey to Sir A . Nicolson 

Foreign Office, 

February 27, 1909. 

Your difficulties of Russia’s position, which, as reported in your 
telegrams Nos. 102, 103, and 104 of the 26th instant, M. Isvolsky has 
explained to you, have, as you will see, been put before the French and 
German Governments in my communications to them in terms similar to 
those used by M. Isvolsky. 

But the facts of the situation are accurately represented by the 
observation made by you to His Excellency as reported in the first 
sentence of your telegram No. 103. M. Isvolsky must recognize that, 
without a successful war, no advantages, except economic concessions, 
can be obtained for Serbia, and that war must inevitably ensue unless 
claims for territorial compensation are abandoned by Serbia. 

When M. Isvolsky was in London I understood from His Excellency 
that in the end these claims would in all probability have to be with- 
drawn, and I explained to him that he could rely on our diplomatic 
support in obtaining such redress as was possible for Serbia, but that we 
should be unwilling to give him armed assistance. 

The position of the Serbian Government is, in my opinion, that 
they have announced their readiness to submit to the decision of the 
Powers, but that public opinion at home will not allow them to abandon 
of their own accord claims to territorial compensation. 

I received information yesterday from Count Metternich that his 
Government intended to make some proposal to France and His 
Majesty’s Government. This had not as yet reached us, but it is 
probable that it will take the form of a suggestion that, provided that 


Serbia will abandon her demand for territorial compensation, Austria 
should be asked by the Powers to take into favourable consideration the 
granting of economic concessions to Serbia. 

I have not altered my view, which I expressed to the French Govern- 
ment, that it is impossible to expect Russia to advise Serbia to abandon 
territorial claims unless Germany has previously given substantial 
assurance that she will support the demand for economic concessions 
from Austria. Russia cannot now any longer delay deciding whether 
she will support Serbia in the event of war or whether, when the 
moment for decisive action arrives, she will tell Serbia that she finds it 
impossible to support her demands, as being contrary to the interests 
of peace. It is possible that M. Isvolsky is reluctant to come forward 
himself and explain to the Serbian Government what are really the facts 
of the case, and, if so, His Majesty's Government might join with 
France in undertaking this task in the interests of peace. But it would 
first be necessary that we should ourselves be aware of Russia's in- 

If war were to take place, it would probably in the end embroil 
the greater part of the Continent, and even Russia must see that 
such a risk for the sake of Serbia's demands for territorial compensation 
is utterly disproportionate to the end in view. Above is only intended as 
expression of our opinion, and since reading your telegram No. 105, 
which has just reached me, I authorize you to use your own discretion 
as to how much of this you mention to M. Isvolsky. 

The probability is, that if Russia had told Serbia from 
the first that she must not expect more than economic con- 
cessions, the situation would never have become danger- 
ous, and Russia would have emerged with the credit of 
having done, at any rate, something for Serbia. As it was, 
Russia was stiff for a time, and then suddenly threw up the 
sponge and collapsed unconditionally. The strain on 
Isvolsky’s temperament had been very great, and he 
seemed to have had a sudden reaction at the end to despair 
and disgust. 

It was an unpleasant finish, as the following despatch 
from Nicolson shows: 


Sir A. Nicolson to Sir E. Grey 

St. Petersburg, 

March 29, 1909. 

Sir, — It was only on the morning of the 27th instant that the general 
public became aware that the Russian Government had consented, if 
asked by Austria-Hungary, to the unconditional abrogation of Article 
25 of the Berlin Treaty, or, in other words, to recognize the annexation 
by Austria-Hungary of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It had always been 
understood that the Russian Government were, in conjunction with the 
Governments of Great Britain and of France, maintaining the attitude 
which had been announced on more than one occasion, both officially 
and publicly, that the modifications of an international treaty by 
Austria-Hungary on her own initiative, as well as the arbitrary infrac- 
tions of the same treaty by Bulgaria, would not be recognized until the 
matter had been discussed and examined by all the Signatory Powers 
in conjunction with the compensations due to other States whose 
interests had been directly or indirectly affected by the acts of last 
autumn. It was therefore with surprise, and indeed with bewildered 
consternation, that the public learnt that the Russian Government, who 
were supposed to have under their especial care the interests of the 
smaller Balkan States, and whose influence in the Balkan Peninsula 
had been endangered, had consented suddenly to abandon the position 
which they had hitherto assumed, and to sanction the act which Austria- 
Hungary had executed some months ago. It was considered not only in 
the Press, but also, so far as I have been able to observe and ascertain, 
in all classes of society, that Russia had suffered a deep humiliation, and 
had renounced the traditional part which she had hitherto played in 
South-East Europe, and in the prosecution of which she had made 
so great sacrifices in the past. Even among those who take but little 
interest in foreign affairs, and who do not feel much sympathy for the 
smaller Balkan States, whom they regard as troublesome and ungrateful 
younger brethren, there was a feeling of bitter resentment that, at a most 
critical moment for two of the minor Slav States, their natural protector 
had abandoned them to the mercy of a German Power ; and that Russia 
had consented, without making any reservations in favour of those who 
had looked to her for assistance, if not material, in any case moral and 
diplomatic, to give her seal to an act which had been committed by 
Austria-Hungary to the detriment of Slav interests. I have been assured, 
by those who have witnessed many various phases in the recent history of 



Russia, that there has never previously been a moment when the country 
had undergone such humiliation, and, though Russia has had her 
troubles and trials, both external and internal, and has suffered defeats 
in the field, she has never had, for apparently no valid cause, to submit 
to the dictation of a foreign Power. 

As I am sending this despatch by post, I do not like to enter into 
fuller details or to draw certain consequences which may possibly follow 
from the step which the Russian Government have taken. I will 
only notice that voices are being raised whether the ally and friend of 
Russia have proved sufficiently strong supporters at the hour of need. 

The Golos Pravdy , the organ of the Octobrist Party, has given 
expression of these doubts in no uncertain tones, and has drawn the 
attention of its readers to the fact that the combination of the three 
Powers was too weak to withstand the first shock which it sustained 
from the Central Powers. It is considered out of the question that 
Russia could have taken the recent step without previous consultation 
with her Ally and her friend ; and, indeed, it has been spread about that 
it was on the advice of Great Britain that the step was taken. When this 
version has come to my ears, I have naturally given it a direct denial. 
The whole truth will doubtless gradually be known, but when it is 
known it is hardly likely to mitigate the feeling of humiliation which at 
present is weighing so heavily on the public mind. — I have, etc., 

A. Nicolson. 

There was more unpleasantness still. I was accused in 
Austria, and I think in Germany too, of having fomented 
trouble and tried to provoke a European war. The follow- 
ing telegram to Cartwright gives some indication of my 
feeling at the injustice of the charge: 

Sir E. Grey to Sir F. Cartwright 

Foreign Office, 

December 23, 1 908. 

I can only qualify as preposterous and utterly absurd the Austrian 
suspicions that His Majesty’s Government are desirous of bringing about 
a European war. (See your telegram No. 104 of the 21st instant.) 
Both public opinion here and the foreign policy of His Majesty’s 
Government are alike opposed to such a scheme. So far from ever 



having encouraged the Governments of Serbia, Montenegro, and 
Turkey in an attitude of opposition to Austria, we might fairly claim 
that it is to some extent due to our influence that the Ottoman Govern- 
ment has shown itself ready to negotiate with Austria. We have used 
all our influence in the cause of peace by discouraging impossible claims 
and demands and by curbing the violence of public feeling, which was 
outraged by the policy of Baron d’Aehrenthal himself. Our power to 
preserve the peace of Europe can only be weakened by the unjust 
accusations which Austria is bringing against us, and which, moreover, 
are accepted as true in the Austrian dominions. 

You may speak in this sense and in that of my previous telegram 
on the subject when discussing the matter with Baron cTAehrenthal 
or any other influential persons. 

This caused me little concern, for I thought it only a per- 
sonal matter. In fact, it had a much deeper significance : 
it was a symptom of that inveterate and ineradicable dis- 
trust which poisoned European diplomacy and made any 
healthy growth impossible. 

The following extracts from despatches are worth quot- 
ing. The first is from my official record of a conversa- 
tion with Metternich at the Foreign Office on October 
9, 1908: 

Count Metternich said that Austria had given no warning to 
Germany, who had been just as surprised by what had taken place 
as the other Powers had been. But, though Germany wished, as he 
had said, to encourage the new regime in Turkey, she would feel 
bound in this matter to support her ally and friend. 

The second is an extract from a telegram from Goschen, 
our Ambassador at Vienna, dated October 17, 1908, re- 
porting a conversation with the German Ambassador 
there : 

Herr von Tschirsky, in discussing the annexation question, remarked 
on the cleverness of Baron d’Aehrenthal in not previously giving a hint 


to Germany of his intentions. Discussions which might have been 
uncomfortable for both sides had thus been avoided. 

The next quotation is an extract from a telegram from 
Goschen at Vienna, also dated October 17, 1908: 

German Ambassador presented German Emperor’s reply to Emperor 
of Austria to-day. The Press, to whom the German Ambassador seems 
to have been rather communicative, reports that the letter was most 
cordial, congratulating the Emperor upon the annexation and promising 

Lastly, I give an extract from a report, dated February 
11, 1909, made to me by Hardinge, then Permanent 
Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, of his visit to 
Berlin in attendance upon King Edward. The extract 
refers to a conversation that Hardinge had with Prince 

Turning to the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he (Prince 
Biilow) assured me that although he had heard of the project after the 
meeting at Buchlau, Baron d’Aehrenthal’s intention to put it into im- 
mediate execution had come as a complete surprise to him, and that he 
had only learnt it at the same time as the news was communicated in 
London and St. Petersburg. Although he expressed his conviction 
that Baron d’Aehrenthal may have been justified by the Pan-Serb 
agitation in the two provinces in his decision to put an end to it by 
annexation, he did not disguise from me his disapproval of the methods 
by which Baron D’Aehrenthal had attained his object. It would have 
been so simple for the Austrian Government to have announced to the 
Porte that, in view of the new state of affairs prevailing in Turkey, they 
proposed to dispense with the guarantees, which they had hitherto 
possessed, for the maintenance of order on the frontiers of the provinces, 
by withdrawing the Austrian troops from the Sandjak, in return for 
which the Turkish Government might have been willing to countenance 
the conversion of the occupation into definite annexation. To such 
an arrangement Turkey would probably have agreed, and none of the 


Powers would have objected. Instead of this, by his precipitate action 
and seemingly thoughtless procedure, Turkey had been deeply incensed, 
the Powers affronted, the value as a concession of the evacuation of 
the San ljak thrown away, and the Austrian Government compelled in 
the end to pay an indemnity of two and a half millions. It had 
been incumbent on the German Government to support Baron d’Aehren- 
thal throughout this crisis, whatever might be their feelings as to his 
procedure, but they had, when the opportunity presented itself, given 
moderating advice. 

It i: impossible to recount these events of 1909 without 
being struck by an ominous parallel with the crisis of 
1914. In 1908, as in 1914, Austria acted without full con- 
sultation with her Ally — so the world was told by Von 
Biilow in the first, and by Von Bethmann-Hollweg in 
the latter, crisis. In 1908, as in 1914 Germany, while 
depre:ating the headstrong character of Austria’s action, 
thought it necessary to support her Ally. In 1909, as 
in 1914, Russia felt herself challenged to support Serbia. 
Then; the parallel ends. In 1908 Russia preferred hu- 
miliation; in 19x4 she faced war. Let anyone who has 
not been impressed by Nicolson’s account of the 
humiliation felt in Russia in 1909 turn back to page 
182 <nd read it again. Let him remember also that 
this humiliation was branded into Russian feeling by 
the subsequent speech of the German Emperor at Vienna 
— the exulting speech, in which he spoke of having 
supported Austria in shining armour. Prestige amongst 
the Slav nations of South-East Europe was as neces- 
sary to Russia as to Austria. Russia could not afford 
a second blow such as that of 1908. And yet in the 
crisis of 1914, especially after Serbia’s disarming reply 
to the Austrian ultimatum, there was no ruler in Germany 
great enough to feel that what was essential to the peace of 


Europe was not the support of Austria in “shining 
armour,” but a wise and strong restraining hand. 

Here it is tempting to imagine how a moralist might 
reflect upon the discredit of the Near East policy of the 
Powers most concerned in it. For many years under 
Abdul Hamid (and his successors proved no better) 
Turkish rule had been a blighting misgovernment, with 
outbreaks of cruel outrage upon Christian minorities. 
Austria and Russia, each afraid of the other, each thinking 
of its own prestige and influence, had let the thing go on. 
Neither dared risk disturbance of the equilibrium, and 
the equilibrium was Abdul Hamid. So jealous and fear- 
ful were they both, that each was apt to resent as an intru- 
sion even the lone hand of Britain, when it was put forth 
in the direction of Turkish reforms. Germany feared to 
see the equilibrium disturbed, lest consequences should 
ensue between Austria and Russia, in which she might 
feel it necessary to be involved. But Germany went fur- 
ther. If Austria and Russia were not moved by humani- 
tarian considerations, Germany openly disregarded them, 
and made a friend of Abdul Hamid to further her own 
material interests in Asia Minor. 1 

What has come of all this rivalry, this struggle for 
prestige and for gain? 

The thrones of Berlin, Vienna, and Moscow are empty. 
Germany, to get on her feet, is receiving international help 
on terms that would once have seemed incredibly humil- 
iating. The fragment of country of which Vienna is now 
the capital has been a suppliant to the League of Nations, 
happily with success, to be saved from annihilation. Rus- 
sia has had years of internal bloodshed, terror, and untold 
misery, of which we do not yet see the end. 

1 See the analysis of German official papers at the time of the Armenian 
atrocities in 1895, published in The Times of Jan. 8, 1924. 

r 88 


It would be distorting true perspective to say that lack 
of idealism in Near East policy was the cause of all this 
disaster ; but it may fairly be said that it was a symptom of 
things that were the cause, and it was from the Near East 
that the flash came which fired the train of dire conse- 

The meditations of a moralist on public affairs are apt 
to btcome dreamy and far-fetched; perhaps these are so. 
Yet they may give rise to thoughts that are worth con- 
sidering by all nations with great responsibilities, and they 
are not irrelevant to preser t realities and future contin- 

One other subject which caused me much anxiety in 
these days, that of the Belgian Congo, deserves a brief 

From the early days of the nineteenth century there 
have been uprisings of public opinion against glaring 
abuses and cruelty, when public attention was once con- 
centrated on them. These had their roots in a religious 
feeling that was deep and strong, even if it was sometimes 
narrow. This support made men like Wilberforce, How- 
ard, Shaftesbury, and Plimsoll, and a woman such as 
Florence Nightingale, forces in public life, and made 
Britain a pioneer in the abolition of slavery, in Factory 
Acts and in prison reform. But the national conscience 
was not satisfied by reform of abuses in British territories; 
it insisted that British Governments should concern them- 
selves with matters for which they had no special respon- 
sibility in lands over which they had no control. Glad- 
stone roused it on behalf of Italy, and made it formidable 
against misrule in Turkey. It bestirred itself concerning 
slave labour in the Portuguese colonies, and cruelty in 
the Congo under King Leopold of Belgium. No British 


Government could disregard it, and I believe that all the 
Governments of which I could form an intelligent opin- 
ion, those from 1880 onwards, sincerely desired and en- 
deavoured to give effect to it. In doing so they were beset 
with difficulties; only in the United States was there any 
similar movement of opinion demanding action outside 
its own country. And in that vast country the movement 
was too partial to cause an uprising of national sentiment 
about such things as Turkish misrule, or to overcome the 
tradition of non-interference in the old world, handed 
down from Washington. In other countries, whatever the 
humane sentiments of individuals may have been about 
their own affairs, they did not take the form of pressure 
for philanthropic action abroad that might involve their 
own Governments in complication with continental neigh- 
bours. It was only an island such as Britain that could 
safely afford to embark on diplomatic crusades. To con- 
tinental countries, these British efforts were often incon- 
venient, as in the case of Turkish reforms, and they were 
often resented, because they were not understood. They 
sometimes ran counter to obvious British interests, but this 
did not predispose foreign Governments to think them 
sincere. On the contrary, it stimulated them to search 
deeply for some concealed motive, though the true one 
lay on the surface before their eyes. It was no wonder, 
then, that in some instances these efforts of British Gov- 
ernments resulted in friction and futility. Their endeav- 
ours brought upon them the obstruction and dislike of 
foreign Governments, and their want of success exposed 
them to the criticisms of those at home, whose earnest and 
conscious rectitude of purpose made them too impatient 
to reckon or to allow for the difficulties that had to be 



Of one only of these movements will account be given 
here. To do more would occupy too much space with 
affairs that were not in the main line of foreign policy. 

By the time I returned to the Foreign Office in 1905 the 
agitation here was running high against cruelty in the 
Congo under the personal rule of King Leopold. The 
evidence was based upon a mass of information, including 
British consular reports, and nobody doubted that the state 
of things was atrocious. The outcome had been the forma- 
tion in Britain of the Congo Reform Association, whose 
object it was to put an end to the abuses. My own feeling 
was one of detestation of the system and its crimes and of 
the character of the man who was responsible for them. 
The Belgian Government and Parliament disclaimed and 
had, in fact, no responsibility for what was done in the 
Congo. This was solely the personal affair of the King; 
but, if he relinquished the Congo, Belgium had the option 
of taking it. The Congo agitation did not therefore di- 
rectly affect our relations with the Belgian Government; 
but Belgians did not like the attacks upon their King, and 
the suspicion that in the agitation there was some political 
motive prejudicial to their future option over the Congo 
made our action unpopular with them. 

My own view of the remedy and of the objective we 
should set before ourselves was clear. It was the trans- 
ference of the Congo from the personal rule of King Leo- 
pold to the constitutional Government of Belgium. I 
was convinced that a great and beneficent change would be 
effected as soon as the administration was in the hands of 
a Government that was not concerned with trading profits 
and private gain; and also that the abuses, of which we 
heard, could not continue under a Government that had 
to account for its acts to a freely elected popular Assembly. 


19 1 

The transfer of the Congo to Belgium would therefore be 
a real and effective solution. 

This solution was not only practicable, but it was also 
the only one that would be honourable and politically 
expedient. To promote any other would be to disregard 
the indisputable right of Belgium to have the Congo, 
whenever King Leopold relinquished it. Any other set- 
tlement would arbitrarily and forcibly pass over and deny 
the right of a smaller State. 

To do this would also be politically unwise, for it would 
open up a vista of political complications. If Belgium 
declined to exercise her right to the Congo, France had, 
by treaty with her, a right to pre-emption. Neither we 
nor other Powers were party to that treaty, but it was in 
the knowledge of us all, and we had neither intention nor 
desire to question the French pre-emption. It would come 
into operation only if Belgium voluntarily resigned her 
own right; but it was most improbable that other Powers 
interested in Africa would acquiesce in seeing Belgium 
voluntarily set aside and the whole vast and, in some parts, 
valuable area of the Congo, presented to France. France, 
therefore, would naturally stand up for the rights of 
Belgium, on which her own contingent interest depended ; 
to ignore those rights would lead to friction with France 
and would prompt Germany, who had important African 
possessions adjoining the Congo, to assert her own interest 
in the question. Portugal, who also had territory adjoin- 
ing the Congo, might also claim to be admitted to the 
discussion. In fact, the future of the Congo would become 
an international question fraught with unpleasant possi- 

European Powers had already enough complications 
on hand, and it would be the height of imprudence, and 



even of impolicy, to add the Congo to them. On the other 
hand, if the Congo were transferred to Belgium, not a 
finger would be stirred or a word said by anyone. The 
Belgian solution was therefore the only one that would be 
effective, expedient, and honourable to all concerned. For 
this we pressed. 

Our action was based on the international treaties or 
arrangements respecting the Congo and Africa in general 
to which we, with other Powers, were parties. But we 
got no support from anyone; we were left coldly and 
severely alone in our representation. Neither France nor 
Germany desired to share in the unpopularity in Belgium 
that we incurred by the anti-Congo agitation. Each of 
them probably wished to avoid the risk of its becoming a 
political question. 

King Leopold resented the British agitation, including 
no doubt my own speeches and diplomatic action ; he even 
sent me a long personal letter of protest. We continued 
to make ourselves disagreeable, and we hoped we were 
making him uncomfortable; it was all we could do. Any 
sending of force by ourselves into the Congo would have 
been regarded with great distrust and jealousy by other 
Powers, and would have been taken as a sure indication 
that we meant to get something for ourselves; the prece- 
dent of Egypt, where we had landed with temporary in- 
tentions and stayed permanently, would have been vigor- 
ously recalled. Our contention that the Congo agitation 
here was disinterested would have been stultified. 

It is not worth while now to examine what share we 
might claim in having hastened the transfer of the Congo 
to Belgium. King Leopold did at last relinquish it. 
From that moment the representations of the British Gov- 
ernment ceased ; the Congo Reform Association dissolved 


itself ; the agitation stopped. This should fairly be noted 
as proof that the stir of British public opinion about the 
Congo was, what it professed to be, genuinely philan- 
thropic and disinterested. The transfer of the Congo to 
Belgium was regarded not only with satisfaction, but with 
relief; and the expectation that Congo reform would 
result proved to be justified, and the hope has been ful- 

It is well known that there were from time to time dur- 
ing these years differences of opinion in the Cabinet about 
naval or military expenditure. Probably they are endemic 
in all Cabinets, but it is only occasionally that they attain 
to epidemic violence. The difference is not on the prin- 
ciple of national safety, but as to the margin of strength 
necessary to secure it. The most acute crisis in the Liberal 
Government came over naval expenditure in 1909. Were 
we to be committed to the construction of eight new battle- 
ships, or would six, or even four, be enough for national 
safety? For some days there was a Cabinet crisis. Even- 
tually it was observed that all eight ships could not be laid 
down at once, and it was agreed that the construction 
should proceed in a manner that would not delay the 
completion of the eight ships if reflection and further 
knowledge proved them to be necessary, but on the under- 
standing that reduction of the number could be made, if 
it became apparent that the need for them had been over- 
estimated. To the public and the Press at this time “eight 
ships” became a formula, but in the Cabinet the difference 
was about substance and not formula. No one of us 
wanted eight ships, unless they were really required ; every 
one of us was prepared to agree to them, if they were 
proved necessary to secure national safety. 



The usual method by which agreement is reached in 
such crises is as follows: 

The difference of opinion is disclosed, stated, and 
stoutly maintained on each side at a Cabinet. If it is so 
important and acute as to make resignation seem certain 
or probable, individual Ministers of different views seek 
private talks with each other outside the Cabinet. In this 
way the strength of their respective arguments is tested; 
the amount of concession that each feels he can make is 
ascertained. Finally, a Cabinet again meets with the 
knowledge that it is going to agree. This presupposes 
that the difference of opinion is really about the merits of 
the question, and is not a pretext put forward for a per- 
sonal or political object. When it is a pretext for either 
of these things the procedure is much less pleasant and 
the prognosis less favourable. 

There was often a wrestle, sometimes sluggish, some- 
times brisk, about Army Estimates. Haldane had to argue 
and struggle to get what he asked for; sometimes he had 
to economize on what was of secondary importance, in 
order to get what the War Office felt to be of primary 
importance. On one occasion temperature rose sufficiently 
high to cause one of the opponents of Haldane’s Estimates 
to speak of the War Office in conversation as “the Minis- 
try of Slaughter” ; but, in the end, what was regarded as 
essential was obtained without ill-feeling or rancour. 




The King’s Visits Abroad — Unfounded Suspicions — The Supposed 
“Encircling Policy” — The King’s Illness and Death — An Estimate 
of his Character — Legend and Fact — Intangible Qualities — His 
Popularity a National Asset — The Value of the Monarchy as a 
British Institution — King George’s Accession. 

T HE visits of King Edward abroad have been the 
subject of much surmise and suspicion. They 
were not made the occasion of any manoeuvres 
against any Power. They were friendly when he went to 
Germany; the malignant suggestion that, when he visited 
the Emperor of Austria, an attempt was made by him, or 
by anyone who went with him, to sow dissension between 
Austria and Germany has been disposed of by the publica- 
tion of the confidential report of that visit made by Sir 
Charles Hardinge. To this I may add that I impressed 
upon Sir Fairfax Cartwright, when he went as Ambassa- 
dor at Vienna, that he should do nothing to make trouble 
between Austria and Germany. We wanted the Entente 
and Germany’s Triple Alliance to live side by side in 
amity. That was the best that was practicable. If we 
intrigued to break up the Triple Alliance, our contention 
that the Entente was entirely defensive and was not di- 
rected against Germany would cease to be true. Dis- 
turbance and possible war, it was clear, would be the 
consequence. The Germans worked up the theory of an 
“encircling policy” and attributed it particularly to King 



Edward. I did not think that the German Government 
seriously believed this theory. It seemed incredible that 
they should not realize that, if Germany had alliances, 
other countries must have them too. It seemed to me that 
they surely must see that the Franco-Russian Alliance was 
the inevitable outcome and counterpart of the Triple 
Alliance; that German strategic railways must beget other 
strategic railways. The French encouragement of Rus- 
sian railways towards the German frontier was a natural 
consequence of the railways Germany had already made 
towards the French and Belgian frontiers. The conse- 
quence cannot fairly be considered more malignant than 
the cause. After the Triple Alliance was formed Russia 
was isolated, France was isolated, Britain was not only 
isolated, but in constant danger of war with France of 
Russia. German statesmen cannot seriously have thought 
that this situation could last. France and Russia found 
some comfort in an Alliance, and at last Britain found it 
in an Entente. It seemed to me that Germans must under- 
stand this sequence of events, and that the theory of the 
“encircling” policy was encouraged to keep German 
opinion up to high-water mark in expenditure on German 

The visit of King Edward to Reval in the summer of 
1908 was, and is still, made the subject of unjust suspicion 
and mischievous legend. As usual, King Edward was 
accompanied by Hardinge, and I stayed at home. The 
report made to me by Hardinge at the time of the visit is 
printed in an Appendix to this chapter. Here let it be 
observed, about all these reports by Hardinge of the visits 
of King Edward, that they are the real full, authentic, 
confidential record of what took place. 

In May 1910 we knew that King Edward was seriously 


ill. I had gone to my cottage for a week-end without 
expecting that anything was imminent; a private mes- 
sage from Hardinge told me that he had received very 
bad news from Buckingham Palace. I returned to Lon- 
don. My brother had just arrived from Africa. I told 
him what was impending, and we sat up together. The 
house I was living in is in Queen Anne’s Gate, but on the 
farther and retired side and not facing Bird Cage Walk. 
Late at night, all was quiet about us. Presently the silence 
of the deserted street was broken; something was being 
cried; we leant out of the window and heard the news- 
vendors calling, “Death of the King.” 

It is not till a thing has actually happened that we know 
the full import of it. Prepare for it as we may, try all 
we may, we cannot beforehand realize all that it will 
mean to us. But when the event comes, an enlargement 
of understanding is suddenly borne in upon us on a wave 
of emotion. I felt that something irreparable, like a land- 
slide, had happened. To explain what King Edward was 
it is necessary first to get rid of some misconceptions about 
him, which have obtained abroad rather than in his own 
country. A legend arose in his life-time which perhaps 
was believed more widely afterwards, that British foreign 
policy was due to his initiative, instigation, and control. 
This was not so in my experience. He not only accepted 
the constitutional practice that policy must be that of his 
Ministers, but he preferred that it should be so. He read 
all the important papers, and now and then a despatch 
would come back with some short marginal comment ap- 
proving of something contained in it; but comment of any 
sort was rare, and I do not remember criticism or sugges- 
tion. In conversation he would show that he was aware of 
all that was being done and had followed it, but his com- 



ments would be on some point immediately in hand. He 
did not care for long and sustained discussion about large 
aspects of policy, though he brought strong common sense 
and good judgment to bear on any concrete matter of the 
moment. It would be a mistake to infer from this that he 
was indifferent to the general trend of our foreign policy. 
It must be remembered that the course for this had been 
set before I went to the Foreign Office in 1905. I was 
continuing a policy with which he was already familiar 
and in sympathy. My impression is that he had gone 
through the same process as many of us had done, that of 
getting to feel uncomfortable at dependence on Germany, 
and to dislike repeated quarrels with France or Russia. 
He was therefore staunch in his desire for friendship with 
these two countries. Had his Ministers reversed this 
policy, he would, I imagine, have made it clear to them 
that he disliked what they were doing and thought it 
unwise. As it was, he never left a doubt that the policy 
we were pursuing had his cordial approval and good-will. 
But never for a moment did he suggest that this policy 
should be given a point against Germany; and when he 
paid a State visit to Berlin he enjoyed making his presence 
popular there as much as anywhere else. 

He took an active interest in high diplomatic appoint- 
ments, such as those of Ambassadors, but it was from the 
point of view of their personal qualities, not from that of 
policy. He wished us to be represented abroad with dig- 
nity and personal prestige. 

What, then, were the qualities that made him so im- 
portant to the country? They are not easy to describe, 
because they were the intangible qualities of a personality 
peculiar to himself. Let the more commonplace be con- 
sidered first. He had in a very high degree the gift, proper 


and valuable in a Sovereign, for ceremonial. No one 
knew so well as he how ceremony should be arranged, 
ordered, and carried through in the manner most effective 
and impressive. By his own person, and by the part he 
took in it, he added dignity to it. In all this he performed 
to perfection the function that only the Sovereign can per- 
form for the British Empire. This, however, is expected 
of the Sovereign, and, however well it is performed, unless 
there be something else, people are left satisfied but cold; 
they may even come to resent the pomp and the display. 
King Edward had a rare, if not a unique, power of com- 
bining bonhomie and dignity. The bonhomie was warm 
and spontaneous, but it never impaired the dignity. His 
bearing was a perfect example of tact, ease, and dignity, 
and to this were added good sense and judgment that not 
only avoided mistakes, but perceived the thing that should 
be said to suit the occasion or please an individual. These 
gifts, valuable in any Sovereign, were particularly so in 
one who was the living centre of an Empire that included 
the self-governing Dominions and India. 

There was, however, something more that gave a spirit 
and aspect to it all, and this was due to his individual per- 
sonality. Warm human kindness was of the very sub- 
stance of the man. The misfortune or unhappiness of 
anyone he knew caused him real discomfort; and he would 
do anything in his power to relieve it. The success or 
good fortune of a friend gave him lively pleasure and 
satisfaction. He had a capacity for enjoying life, which 
is always attractive, but which is peculiarly so when it is 
combined with a positive and strong desire that everyone 
else should enjoy life too. These, it may be thought, are 
not very uncommon qualities, but King Edward had a 
peculiar power of making them felt. The crowd knew 



and recognized them. I imagine, for instance, that the 
humblest devotees of horse-racing in a Derby-day crowd 
knew that King Edward was there to enjoy the national 
festival in precisely the same spirit as themselves, that he 
wished them to enjoy it too; that their enjoyment was part 
of his own. There was, in fact, real sympathy and com- 
munity of feeling between himself and his people. It was 
the same wherever he went. I was told it was perceptible 
even in the short time of his visit to Berlin, though there 
was no political Entente to predispose to popularity. 

The effect was due, no doubt, to the genuineness of his 
own feeling; but, when all has been said, something is 
required in the nature of genius to account for this re- 
markable power of projecting his personality over a 

He became intensely and increasingly popular, and 
when he died, the unprecedented, long-drawn-out pro- 
cession, to pass the bier of state in Westminster Hall, was a 
manifestation of genuine and personal sorrow as well as 
of national mourning. 

Popularity such as this centred in a constitutional Sov- 
ereign was an immense advantage to the State. The posi- 
tion is one that cannot be combined with responsibility for 
policy. Any association, past or present, of the Sovereign 
with political controversy would be fatal to it. The man- 
ner in which it was filled by King Edward, and his great 
popularity, made him a real asset of national stability; and 
this, in a time of crisis or upheaval, would have been of 
inestimable value. His death was felt as a national loss, 
especially by his Ministers, who were in the exposed posi- 
tion of responsibility for the conduct of the nation’s affairs. 

Every human institution must change, if it is to last. 
The strength and endurance of the British Monarchy has 


been due to its adaptability to new conditions. The United 
States and France have shown that Monarchy is not essen- 
tial to modern States: the British Empire to-day demon- 
strates that even in the most democratic country there is a 
place for Monarchy, that, rightly evolved, it performs a 
function that no other institution could accomplish. The 
British Monarchy to-day adds to the stability, without in 
the least hampering the freedom, of Britain itself or of 
any part of the Empire. In previous centuries such an 
evolution must have seemed improbable : one can imagine 
a successful essay to prove it impossible by the argument 
that the Crown must either be a check upon democracy or 
be reduced to futility. The answer is, solvitur ambulando 
— the thing is impossible until it exists. It has come by the 
most convincing of all methods, not by plan, but by prac- 
tical evolution. 

Certain conditions are necessary. The succession must 
be hereditary: no other method of choice will give a 
Sovereign that complete aloofness from rivalry and con- 
troversy which is essential to his peculiar position. He 
must, in his person, embody the traditions of the past as 
well as the practice of the present; his previous life must 
have trained and prepared him for the position. He must 
realize that, while the ceremonial side of the Crown has 
to be maintained with dignity, and even with reasonable 
splendour, it is in fact a democratic institution. Each 
Ministry in turn must in equal degree, irrespective of class 
or party, have the confidence, support, and good-will of 
the Sovereign. However much his influence may be used 
with the Prime Minister or other members of the Cabinet 
in favour of his personal opinion about policy or appoint- 
ments, there must be nothing done by the Sovereign to 
weaken or undermine the position of Ministers. In return, 


their attitude to him must be one of respect as well as 
frankness; they must be careful to protect the Monarchy 
and observe its forms. The performance by the Sovereign 
of the duties and his observance of the limitations of the 
Monarchy must be repaid by perfect loyalty to him. 

Everyone who was present when King George first 
received those who had been the last Ministers under King 
Edward must have been touched by the deep regret with 
which King George found himself so early called upon 
to fill his father’s place: they must have been impressed, 
too, by the modesty and also by the earnest public spirit 
with which he addressed himself to the task before him. 
The promise of that first audience has been fulfilled : the 
King has been faithful to the traditions and practice of his 
father, and in the trying years that followed has shown a 
continuous example of public duty and patriotic feeling. 
The years that have passed do but confirm the impression 
that constitutional Monarchy is of the highest value in 
substance and in form to the unity of the Empire. 


Report of Sir Charles Hardinge to Sir Edward Grey on the 
Visit of King Edward to the Tsar at Reval in June 1908 

After a rough passage across the North Sea, the King and Queen 
arrived at Kiel on Sunday, June J. Their Majesties were there met by 
Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia, and, after a short stay, left again 
for Reval, escorted by a division of German destroyers for some distance 
from the harbour. 

The smart appearance of the whole of the German North Sea 
Fleet lying at anchor in the port gave food for reflection upon the 
recent German naval programme of construction, while the intricate 
evolutions of the torpedo flotilla, which excited the admiration of all 
the naval officers on board the royal yacht, served as a useful object- 
lesson of the efficiency of the German Navy. 


I may mention that the officers of the two British cruisers H.M.S. 
Minotaur and Achilles were, while waiting at Kiel to escort the King 
in the Baltic, entertained at dinner by Prince Henry of Prussia, who 
made a speech to them expressing friendship towards England, dis- 
claiming any aggressive intentions on the part of the German Navy, 
and asking them to make these views understood and spread throughout 
England. It is thought by those who know Prince Henry that he would 
not have spoken in this strain without direct instructions to do so. 

I was able to ascertain, during our short stay at Kiel, that the work 
of enlarging the Canal has already been begun, and that a commission 
is this very week sitting at Kiel to arrange the details of the work. 

The King and Queen arrived at Reval on the morning of the 9th 
instant, having had splendid weather in the Baltic, and there met the 
Emperor, the two Empresses, and members of the Imperial Family, 
with some of the Russian Ministers, on board the two Imperial yachts 
and the cruiser Almaz , the sole survivor of the large Russian fleet 
that took part in the battle of Tsushima. 

During the two days spent at Reval the weather was fortunately 
brilliant, although only two days earlier such a gale had been blowing as 
would have rendered communication between the yachts almost im- 
possible, and four inches of snow had fallen. 

During the course of the visit the King had several interviews with 
M. Stolypine and M. Isvolsky, from which, I understand, the best 
possible impressions were created on both sides. 

I had several opportunities of discussing with M. Isvolsky the various 
questions of foreign policy in which our two countries are chiefly in- 
terested, and I cannot help thinking that this direct exchange of views 
between the two Foreign Offices will be beneficial and facilitate the 
solution of most of our pending questions. 

My first enquiry of M. Isvolsky was as to the impression which had 
been created upon him and in Russia by Sir Edward Grey’s recent 
speech 1 in the House of Commons. He replied that it was excellent, 
and that what had impressed people in Russia so much was the tone 
of moderation and firmness with which it was inspired. He was evi- 
dently pleased with it. 

The question of Macedonian Reform entailed a considerable amount 
of discussion, and gave M. Isvolsky an opportunity of expounding the 

1 Presumably the speech in the House of Commons explaining the Anglo- 
Russian Convention, Feb. 17, 1908. 



general policy of Russia towards England and Germany, which I will 
endeavour to describe as shortly as possible. 

M. Isvolsky stated that the scheme of Macedonian Reforms was one 
which he had deeply at heart, and upon which Russian public opinion, 
as shown by the Press, felt strongly. He personally would have gladly 
accepted the whole of the scheme as first developed by Sir Edward 
Grey if he had seen the slightest prospect of obtaining its adoption by 
the rest of the Powers, and, lastly, by the Sultan. He knew for a 
fact, however, that this scheme would have met with the greatest 
opposition on the part of Germany and Austria, and even now he 
anticipated considerable difficulties if any further modifications of a 
drastic nature were to be introduced into the scheme as defined by his 
last note. He reminded me that Russia is always in a difficult position 
vis-a-vis of Germany, owing to the military supremacy of the latter 
Power on the frontier, that in Germany there is very great nervousness 
as to future political developments amongst the Powers, and that the 
age and indifferent health of the Emperor of Austria are a source of 
uneasiness as to the future. It was imperative, therefore, that Russia 
should act with the greatest prudence towards Germany, and give the 
latter Power no cause for complaint that the improvement of the 
relations of Russia with England had entailed a corresponding deteriora- 
tion of the relations of Russia towards Germany. During the past 
two months the German Government had formally complained to 
him more than once of the hostility of the Russian Press towards 
Germany, and, although he greatly regretted the outspoken sentiments 
of the Russian Press, which he fully believed reflected their true feelings, 
he had been obliged to confess his impotence under the present system 
of liberty of the Press to control their utterances. The visit of the 
French President to London, of the King to Reval, and the impending 
visit of the President to Russia, had not tended to improve matters, and 
he foresaw that difficulties were to be expected from Germany and 
Austria, especially in the adoption of the scheme of Macedonian Reforms. 
He therefore expressed the hope that his last note, which he had reason 
to believe the German Government might be induced to accept as it 
stands, would be adopted by Sir Edward Grey as the limit to which 
the rope could be strained without breaking, and that the King’s visit 
to Reval might be consecrated by the announcement of the complete 
agreement of England and Russia upon the scheme of reforms to be 
adopted in Macedonia. 


I told M. Isvolsky that when I left London the text of his last note 
had not been received by Sir Edward Grey, only a telegraphic summary 
having been sent by Mr. O’Beirne. Sir Edward Grey had therefore 
been unable to give me complete and definite instructions, although he 
had authorized me to make suggestions for a solution of some of the 
points still at issue. When at Kiel I had received the text of his note, 
and, although I realized that a complete agreement had almost been 
arrived at, it would be impossible to make such an announcement as 
he had suggested unless he was ready to accept the compromise which 
I had been authorized to suggest. As for the attitude of Germany 
towards England and Russia, and towards the recent improvement of 
relations between them, His Majesty’s Government were inspired with 
no hostile feelings towards Germany, with whom they were anxious 
to maintain the most friendly relations, and they realized that every 
action should be avoided which would unnecessarily irritate or exasperate 
feeling in Germany. Such an attitude was probably even more neces- 
sary for Russia, but in the case of His Majesty’s Government this did 
not mean that they would be ready to sacrifice their legitimate interests 
or those of humanity at large to escape the ill-will of Germany, since 
this would be the course best calculated to provoke it. Although the 
attitude of His Majesty’s Government towards Germany was, and had 
been, absolutely correct, it was impossible to ignore the fact that, owing 
to the unnecessarily large increase in the German naval programme, 
a deep distrust in England of Germany’s future intentions had been 
created. This distrust would be still further accentuated with the 
progress of time, the realization of the German programme, and the 
increase of taxation in England entailed by the necessary naval counter- 
measures. In seven or eight years’ time a critical situation might arise, 
in which Russia, if strong in Europe, might be the arbiter of peace, 
and have much more influence in securing the peace of the world than 
at any Hague Conference. For this reason it was absolutely necessary 
that England and Russia should maintain towards each other the same 
cordial and friendly relations as now exist between England and France, 
which in the case of England and Russia are, moreover, inspired by an 
identity of interests of which a solution of the Macedonian problem 
was not the least. 

So, also, as regards the King’s visit to Reval, which could not possibly 
be interpreted as a provocation to Germany, since it could not be 
admitted that the German Emperor should enjoy a monopoly of State 



visits to other Sovereigns, and Sir Edward Grey had been very explicit 
in his statement in the House of Commons that it was not proposed to 
negotiate any new treaty or convention at Reval. I explained that 
this statement had been expressly made with a view to preventing any 
trouble between Germany and Russia owing to the King’s visit to the 
Emperor of Russia. . . . 

In raising the question of the Balkan railways he (M. Isvolsky) 
complained bitterly of Baron Aehrenthal’s action in springing upon 
him the Sanjak Railway concession without any warning whatever — a 
proceeding which had seriously disturbed the status quo in the Balkans, 
and had shaken his confidence in him. It was clear that, in spite of 
Baron Aehrenthal having spent seventeen years in Russia, he had not 
grasped the real feeling in Russia towards the Slav population in the 
Balkans, since he had imagined that there could be only a short flare 
up in the Russian Press, and that Austro-Russian relations would then 
return once more to their former groove. In this he was entirely mis- 
taken, since the relations between Austria and Russia in connexion with 
affairs in the Balkans could not be the same again. M. Isvolsky said 
that he felt considerable anxiety about the Balkan Railway questions; 
he was convinced that the Sanjak Railway would be pushed by Austria 
with the utmost energy, and he considered it absolutely necessary that 
the Danube-Adriatic Railway should be pushed forward part passu. 
The Russian Government had only a very small financial interest in 
the proposed railway, but they realized that the completion of the 
Austrian schemes would mean a monopoly of railway construction in 
Macedonia, and, if this rumour should be confirmed, he would not 
hesitate to take strong measures to prevent what he would consider 
to be an infringement of the spirit of the Treaty of Berlin. Although 
he regretted that His Majesty’s Government had been unable so far 
to support the Serbian Railway scheme, he appreciated their reasons 
for not doing so ; but he hoped that, as soon as an agreement had been 
arrived at on the scheme of Macedonian reforms, His Majesty’s Govern- 
ment would be able to lend their support to it. 

I told M. Isvolsky that His Majesty’s Government are not at all 
opposed in principle to the construction of railways in Macedonia, 
which must necessarily have a civilizing influence, but that they had 
deprecated the opportuneness of the action of Austria at a moment when 
the Powers were devoting their whole attention to the question of 
reforms. I was, however, able to state that, as soon as the scheme of 

Photoaraph by Elliott & Fry, Ltd., London. W . 


British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, 1904-1906, and Permanent Under 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1906-1910 


reforms had been put forward by the Powers at Constantinople, Sir 
Edward Grey would be ready to instruct His Majesty’s Ambassador 
to impress upon the Porte the necessity for granting similar treatment 
to the Danube-Adriatic Railway as has already been granted to the 
Sanjak Railway. We were, I said, of the opinion that either no 
concession, or both concessions, should be granted. 

M. Isvolsky entirely concurred, adding that the Russian Government 
would prefer that none should be granted. 

The conversations which I had with M. Isvolsky, of which the above 
is a summary, lasted about three hours altogether, and although I have 
known M. Isvolsky personally for a great many years, they gave me 
an interesting insight into the official side of his character which I had 
not previously had an opportunity of seeing. He struck me as very able 
and adroit, but extremely timid. Although he tried hard to make me 
commit myself on the Macedonian question beyond the limit of the 
authority which was given to me, any suggestion which I made to him 
was at once set aside as requiring careful study. He was, however, 
very friendly throughout. 

I had several opportunities of short conversations with the Emperor, 
who looked extraordinarily well, and in the best possible spirits. On 
the first occasion that His Majesty spoke to me he warmly praised 
Sir Edward Grey’s speech in the House of Commons, which, he said, 
showed a remarkably true appreciation of the real political situation 
in Russia, and which had made the best possible impression. He asked 
me to convey to Sir Edward Grey his warmest thanks, and to say that 
he endorsed and accepted every word that his speech contained. He 
was extremely glad that the debate had taken place, since it had shown 
to the world that the two great political parties in England shared the 
same friendly feeling towards Russia, and, the dissentients having had 
free scope to say all that they wanted against him and his Government, 
the air had been cleared as after a thunderstorm. 

He hoped very much to have the opportunity, before long, of making 
the personal acquaintance of Sir Edward Grey, who had so largely 
contributed to the realization of his dearest hopes in achieving a real 
improvement in the relations between England and Russia. 

The Emperor repeatedly expressed his great satisfaction at the visit 
of the King and Queen, which, he said, sealed and confirmed the inten- 
tion and spirit of the Anglo-Russian Agreement, and he expressed his 



profound conviction that the friendly sentiments which now prevail 
between the two Governments could only mature and grow stronger 
with the progress of time to the mutual advantage of both countries. 
There might be occasional divergence of views in small matters, but 
the identity of the national interests of England and Russia in Europe 
and Asia would far outweigh any possible results from such trivial 
differences of opinion. A glance at the Russian Press of all shades and 
opinions showed conclusively how extremely popular throughout Russia 
the King’s visit had become, and how it was welcomed as the visible 
sign of a new era in Anglo-Russian relations. On my expressing my 
surprise that such papers as the Novoe Vremja , which I had always 
regarded, when in Russia, as the bitterest foe of England, had now 
become the ardent supporters of an Anglo-Russian understanding, His 
Majesty admitted that he also was astonished at the rapidity with 
which the feeling had spread, and that he had never been so surprised 
as when he had read recently in a Chauvinistic “rag” called the Sviet 
a warm article in praise of England, and urging closer relations between 
the two countries. Since the liberty of the Press had been established 
in Russia, the Press had really become the reflex of public opinion, 
and it was astonishing to see the complete unanimity that prevails as 
to the necessity of warm and friendly relations with England. The 
idea had taken firm root amongst the people, and it only required now 
to be carefully fostered to bear fruit in the future. The Emperor 
admitted that, from the point of view of the relations of Russia to 
Germany, the liberty of expression now enjoyed by the Press had caused 
him and his Government considerable embarrassment, since every 
incident that occurred in any distant province of the Empire, such as 
an earthquake or thunderstorm, was at once put down to Germany’s 
account, and serious complaints had recently been made to him and 
the Government of the unfriendly tone of the Russian Press. He was, 
however, quite unable to remedy this state of affairs, except by an 
occasional official communique to the Press, and this had generally but 
slight effect. He wished very much that the Press would turn their 
attention to internal rather than to foreign affairs; but this was too 
much to expect. 

The Emperor alluded to the recent Baltic and North Sea Agreements, 
and said that he could not see at all the reason for them, nor the 
advantage. As far as he could judge, the situation remains practically 
the same as heretofore, the only result being much waste of time and 


energy, and considerable anxiety during the negotiations amongst smaller 
Powers as to the intentions of the Great Powers. They seemed, how- 
ever, to have given some satisfaction to the German Emperor, and he 
did not therefore grudge it to him. 

I seized the opportunity to say to the Emperor that I presumed that 
it would always remain a cardinal principle of Russian policy to keep 
the Straits between the Baltic and North Sea open, to which His 
Majesty warmly assented as a matter of vital interest to Russia. I 
said that the free entry into the Baltic was also a matter of great 
importance to England, and that, if ever the question of closing the 
Straits were raised in the future, Russia could count on our co-operation 
with her to keep the Straits open. The Emperor remarked that this 
is one more instance of the identity of our interests. 

July 12, 1908. 

The remainder of this record deals with the details of 
the proposed Macedonian Reforms, sundry questions 
arising out of the Anglo-Russian Agreement in regard to 
Persia, and the measures to be taken in Crete on the with- 
drawal of the international force. The above are the only 
passages touching the relations of the Great Powers. 




Death of George Grey — Trouble in Morocco — The French March to 
Fez — The German Retort — The Panther at Agadir — The British 
Attitude — The Silence of Berlin — Lloyd George’s Speech — Ger- 
man Protests — German and French Bargaining — British Efforts 
for Peace — Some Moments of Relief — A Theory of German 
Action — German Policy Reviewed — Some German Ambassadors. 

E ARLY in 1911 George Grey, the brother next to 
me in age, was killed by a lion in East Africa. His 
work and his pleasure had been as a pioneer and 
explorer in new and in unmapped countries. Our work 
had been on different lines and in separate continents, but 
Fallodon had remained his home when in England. He 
had spent several months with me there or in my house 
in London in 1910, and we had planned to make perma- 
nent home together, when he should have given up travel 
and when I should be out of office. He had encountered 
exceptional difficulties in early life, and had surmounted 
them by great qualities. His thought on all practical 
sides of human work was clear and strong, and he had the 
power of decision and resolute action. He was a most 
excellent judge of men. To this was added an innate con- 
tempt for anything that was not straight, and courage, both 
physical and moral, that was impregnable. In times of 
danger, and in wild places, he was a leader of men. In 
these last years I had known also his unspoken tenderness 
and sympathy, a quality that is so particularly attractive, 



when combined with strength of character and courage. 

His sudden death was a great shock and an irreparable 
blow to his family and near friends. 

In the spring of this year there was great internal dis- 
turbance in Morocco; Fez itself was in danger, and it was 
evident that the hand of France might be forced and that 
it might even be necessary for her to send troops to Fez 
to relieve the situation and prevent catastrophe, in which 
her own or other European subjects might be involved. 
Spain was the other Power with a special position in 
Morocco: she was very sensitive about her own prestige 
and very apprehensive lest, as the weaker Power com- 
pared with France, her prestige should suffer. If France 
took action, Spain was sure to do something in order to 
assert her influence. The whole Moroccan question would 
then be reopened. As long as it was possible, I depre- 
cated any action by either Power, but things got worse in 
Morocco and eventually France sent a force to Fez and 
Spain landed troops in her zone. Then suddenly the Ger- 
mans sent a ship, the Panther , to Agadir. Agadir was a 
port not open to commerce; it was said to be suitable for 
a naval base. The German action at once created a crisis, 
and for weeks the issue of peace or war hung in the bal- 
ance. We were bound by the Anglo-French Agreement of 
1904 to give France diplomatic support. This engage- 
ment we fulfilled in letter and spirit, while doing all we 
could to steer for peace, not war. 

The German contention was that French action in going 
to Fez had altered the status quo, as settled by the Act of 
Algeciras, and that if that status quo was not restored 
Germany must have compensation. To this we could not 
demur, and France accepted negotiations on this basis. 
In what followed I took the line with Metternich that, if 



trouble came, British public opinion would side with 
France and that German demands on France for compen- 
sation should not be such as it was impossible for any 
French Government to concede. On the other hand, I 
urged on France the expediency of withdrawing from Fez 
as soon as possible, and I deprecated the sending of British 
and French ships to lie alongside the German ship at 
Agadir, or even to occupy other Moroccan ports as a 
counter-stroke. Such action by us or by France, taken 
while there was hope of peace, would weigh the balance 
on the side of war. As regards compensation I told the 
French in reply to their enquiries that we would raise no 
objection to anything they decided to give Germany in 
the French Congo, and that, even in Morocco, British 
interests did not, in our opinion, require us to object to 
concessions to Germany, short of anything that might be a 
naval base on the flank of our trade route. Concession to 
Germany in Morocco would not have been an agreeable 
solution, but it was for the French, not for us, to exclude 
it. It was, of course, made clear to the French that we 
should not suggest or hint at anything that they disap- 
proved of, and that we should give them diplomatic sup- 
port in resisting German demands that they felt to be 
excessive. This time there were no scares, such as there 
had been in 1906, that we were going to leave France in 
the lurch diplomatically. My relations with Cambon 
were such that I could discuss every possible method of 
conciliation with him, without his becoming apprehensive 
that we meant to throw the French over. 

The despatch of the Panther to Agadir was a very 
brusque way of opening negotiations with the French: 
the Germans followed it up by a disregard of us that led 
to a dramatic incident. At the risk of somewhat confus- 


ing the order of the general narrative I will quote the 
documents that explain and comment on the incident. 

Here is the original announcement made to us of the 
despatch of the Panther: 

Minute by Sir A . Nicolson 

Sir Edward Grey, — The German Ambassador called this morning 
and said he had been instructed to make a verbal communication, which 
is recorded in the above aide-memoire . 1 A similar communication was, 
Count Metternich said, being made to the French and Spanish Govern- 
ments by the German Ambassadors at Paris and Madrid. I merely 
remarked that Agadir was not an open port, and that I was unaware 
that any German or foreign subjects resided there or in its neighbour- 

Count Metternich continued by saying that he wished to make an 
explanatory statement: the advance of France to Fez, in regard to the 
necessity of which German reports differed from those of the French, 
and also the establishment both by France and Spain of military posts 
in various parts of Morocco, had created a new situation, and one which 
rendered the provisions of the Act of Algeciras illusory. By that Act 
France and Spain were only authorized to organize police forces in 
certain open ports. The German Government had no desire to pass 
any criticisms on the above action of France and Spain, but they were 
bound to lend an ear to the requests of German subjects and protected 
subjects in districts in the south where no organized police forces 
existed. It was the duty of the German Government to afford the 
necessary protection to the lives and properties of their subjects in the 
south, and to continue to afford such protection until a condition of 
normal peace and tranquillity had been re-established. The German 

1 The aide-memoire is as follows: Des maisons allemandes etablies au sud 
du Maroc et notamment a Agadir et dans ses environs, se sont allarmees 
d’une certaine fermentation parmi les tribus de ces contrees que semblent avoir 
produite les derniers evenements dans d’autres parties du pays. Ces maisons 
se sont adressees au Gouvernement Imperial pour lui demander protection 
pour leur vie et leurs biens. Sur leur demande le Gouvernement a decide 
d’envoyer au port d’Agadir un batiment de guerre, pour preter, en cas de 
besoin, aide et secours a ses sujets et proteges ainsi qu’aux considerables 
interets allemands engages dans les dites contrees. Des que l’etat de choses au 
Maroc sera rentre dans son calme anterieur, le bateau charge de cette mission 
protectrice aura a quitter le port d’Agadir. 



Government were ready to endeavour to find with the French and 

Spanish Governments a definite solution of the Morocco question. 

They were well aware that there were difficulties in the way of reach- 
ing a solution, but, owing to the friendly relations between Germany, 
France, and Spain, they did not consider that such difficulties were 

insurmountable. If the British Government were ready to assist 

towards this end their aid would be gladly welcomed. 

I said that I would repeat to you as faithfully as possible what he 
had said to me. He could understand that the communication was one 
of great importance, and would have to be very carefully considered. 

A. N. 

Foreign Office, July 1, 1911. 

P.S. — I should add that Count Metternich said that a return to the 
status quo ante was out of the question. 

On July 4 I had the following conversation with the 
German Ambassador in London : 

Sir Edward Grey to Count de Salis 

Foreign Office, 

July 4, 1911. 

Sir, — I informed Count Metternich to-day, on behalf of His Majesty’s 
Government, that I must tell him that our attitude could not be a 
disinterested one with regard to Morocco. We must take into con- 
sideration our treaty obligations to France and our own interests in 
Morocco. We were of opinion that a new situation had been created 
by the despatch of a German ship to Agadir. Future developments 
might affect British interests more directly than they had hitherto been 
affected, and, therefore, we could not recognize any new arrangement 
which was come to without us. 

Count Metternich asked me whether he might take down the exact 
words. I therefore dictated them to him, observing, however, that 
he must take this as a conversation and not as a written communication. 

He remarked that the new situation, had been created by French and 
Spanish action. 

I said I understood the view of the German Government to be that 
the French and Spanish action had made it necessary for them to calm 
German public opinion by showing that Germany was not disinterested 


in the question of Morocco. They had taken the overt step of sending 
a ship to Agadir. We had not taken any overt step, though our com- 
mercial interests in Morocco were greater than those of Germany. It 
was therefore the more incumbent upon us to make it clear that we, 
no more than Germany, could let things develop without taking an 
interest in them. 

Count Metternich then said that the attitude of our Press towards 
the sending of a German ship to Agadir was not likely to foster that 
favourable atmosphere for discussion for which I had expressed a wish 
in conversation yesterday. The German Press, on the other hand, had 
been very calm. 

I said that I had stated yesterday that the action of Germany in 
sending a ship to a closed port, where it was not known that commercial 
interests existed, was sure to excite the Press here and elsewhere. If 
we, instead of the German Government, had sent a ship to Agadir 
while the German Government did nothing, the German Press would 
have been equally excited. 

In commenting upon the communication which I had made, Count 
Metternich said that he was sure the German Government would under- 
stand that it was natural for us to take an interest in the question.— 
1 am > etc -> E. Grey. 

It will be observed that this was a communication made 
after consultation in the Cabinet: the first paragraph was 
what I had been authorized to say. Days passed, and 
Metternich was apparently left without any instructions 
from Berlin, and could tell me nothing from his Govern- 
ment when I saw him. It is true that we had not ad- 
dressed any direct question to the German Government, 
but it was unusual for any Government completely to 
ignore a communication such as I had made. 

On the afternoon of July 21 I was suddenly told that 
Lloyd George (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) had 
come over to the Foreign Office and wanted to see me. 
He came into my room and asked me if the German Gov- 
ernment had given any answer to the communication I 



had made on behalf of the Cabinet on July 4. I said that 
none had reached me, but, to make sure, I had enquiry 
made in the Office whether anything had come that day 
which had not yet reached me. There was nothing. Lloyd 
George then asked whether it was not unusual for our 
communication to be left without any notice, and I replied 
that it was. He told me that he had to make a speech in 
the City of London that evening, and thought he ought to 
say something about it; he then took a paper from his 
pocket and read out what he had put down as suitable. I 
thought what he proposed to say was quite justified, and 
would be salutary, and I cordially agreed. I considered 
there was nothing in the words that Germany could fairly 
resent. Lloyd George spoke as he had proposed that eve- 
ning. What follows is the important part of it: 

But I am also bound to say this — that I believe it is essential in the 
highest interests, not merely of this country, but of the world, that 
Britain should at all hazards maintain her place and her prestige 
amongst the Great Powers of the world. Her potent influence has 
many a time been in the past, and may yet be in the future, invaluable 
to the cause of human liberty. It has more than once in the past 
redeemed continental nations, who are sometimes too apt to forget that 
service, from overwhelming disaster, and even from national extinction. 
I would make great sacrifices to preserve peace. I conceive that nothing 
would justify a disturbance of international good-will except questions 
of the gravest national moment. But if a situation were to be forced 
upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the 
great and beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of heroism 
and achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated, where her interests 
were vitally affected, as if she were of no account in the Cabinet of 
nations, then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a 
humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure. National 
honour is no party question. The security of our great international 
trade is no party question. The peace of the world is much more likely 
to be secured if all nations realize fairly what the conditions of peace 


must be. And it is because I have the conviction that nations are 
beginning to understand each other better, to appreciate each other's 
points of view more thoroughly, to be more ready to discuss calmly and 
dispassionately their differences, that I feel assured that nothing will 
happen between now and next year which will render it difficult for 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this place to respond to the toast 
proposed by you, my Lord Mayor, of the continued prosperity of the 
public purse. 

The speech was entirely Lloyd George’s own idea. I 
did nothing to instigate it, but I welcomed it. The effect 
was much greater than any words of mine could have been. 
There was a section, and a considerable section, of opinion 
in this country that looked upon the Foreign Office in 
general, and myself in particular, as being unduly anti- 
German, just as in 1893, for instance, they looked upon 
Rosebery and the Foreign Office as being anti-French. 
Anything that I said was therefore liable to produce a 
certain reaction of antipathy in this section. The Ger- 
mans knew this well enough, and no doubt prepared to 
make some discount of what I said. But Lloyd George 
was closely associated with what was supposed to be a 
pro-German element in the Liberal Government and in 
the House of Commons. Therefore, when he spoke out, 
the Germans knew that the whole of the Government and 
House of Commons had to be reckoned with. It was my 
opinion then, and it is so still, that the speech had much to 
do with preserving the peace in 1911. It created a great 
explosion of words in Germany, but it made Chauvinists 
there doubt whether it would be wise to fire the guns. 
The speech certainly had the effect of making the Ger- 
man Government keep in touch with their Ambassador in 
London and send him instructions, as the following rec- 
ords of conversation show: 



Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen 

Foreign Office, 

July 24, 1911. 

Sir, — Count Metternich asked to see me to-day, and when he came 
informed me that he had fully reported to his Government what I had 
said to him on Friday, the 21st. He was now instructed to make a 
communication to me. It was as follows: 

From the beginning the German Government had sent a ship to 
Agadir in order to protect German interests, and for no other reason. 
The special cause was the attack of natives on a German farm. 

At this point I observed that I had not, I thought, heard of this 
attack before. I had understood that the despatch of the ship had 
been due to apprehension as to what might happen, not to what had 
actually happened. 

Count Metternich remarked that he had not been told of it before. 

He then proceeded to say that, so far, nothing had happened to give 
reason for thinking that the German intentions were changed. Not a 
man had been landed; and he could inform me, though this was very 
confidential, that the German commander had strict orders to land 
men only in case of extreme necessity — when the lives of Germans were 

I observed that I thought there were no Germans in this region, and 
that I supposed, therefore, the term “German” must mean German- 
protected persons. 

Count Metternich said that he had no information on this point. 

He went on to say that his Government regretted the credence which 
was given to insinuations as to the intentions of Germany that came 
from hostile quarters. Germany never had thought of creating a naval 
port on the Moroccan coast, and never would think of it. Such ideas 
were hallucinations. She had no intentions on Moroccan territory, 
but demanded that France should keep strictly to the Act of Algeciras, 
or else come to explanations with Germany. The German Govern- 
ment thought that the latter course would be more in the interests of 
France, and they had proposed, quite generally, that Germany should 
be given compensation in colonial matters, in order that she might give 
up her right to object to French action in Morocco. Negotiations had 
been begun with France, and both parties had promised to keep the 
strictest secrecy. On the German side this had seriously been done; 
not even the Allies of Germany were informed of what had passed. 


France, on the contrary, to Germany’s regret, had given partial infor- 
mation to the Press, and also to her friends, the information being 
incorrect and incomplete, and calculated to mislead as to the intentions 
of Germany. 

Herr von Kiderlen had declared to M. Jules Cambon that he could 
not go on with negotiations and make positive and detailed proposals 
(a thing which he had not done hitherto) until secrecy was guaranteed. 
In order to avoid misrepresentation, he had proposed that information 
should be given, when mutually agreed upon, to mutual friends and to 
the Press. M. Jules Cambon’s answer to this was expected yesterday. 

If the German demands were rather high, Germany was ready to 
make concessions in Morocco as well as in colonial matters. But the 
Chauvinistic tone of the French, and part of the British Press, menacing 
Germany with the interference of the friends of France, did not tend 
towards a settlement. Should the present negotiations be wrecked, even 
then Germany would have no designs upon Moroccan territory; but 
she would have to demand from France, with determination and em- 
phasis, that the Algeciras Act should be fully carried out, in spirit 
as well as in letter. Germany could not, as one of the Great Powers, 
let the French presume to encroach upon her rights, contrary to written 
treaties. Germany still hoped that things would not come to that point, 
and that a friendly exchange of opinions a deux would avoid this. 
If, however, France should not wish to come to an understanding on 
the basis proposed, Germany would have to demand a return to the 
status quo ante in Morocco, and in doing so would count on the support 
of the other Powers who were parties to the Algeciras Act, and espe- 
cially of England. 

Count Metternich told me confidentially that his Government had 
made no demand as to the right of pre-emption in the Belgian Congo. 

I said that I would communicate this statement to the Prime Min- 
ister. But, as I was likely to be asked in Parliament what was happening 
at Agadir, I should like to know whether I might say that the German 
Government had informed me that rot a man had been landed. 

Count Metternich requested that 1 should make no public statement 
with regard to this conversation unti he had had time to communicate 
with his Government. 

I further observed that the questioi of what was the status quo ante 
was a matter of interpretation, in which I assumed that all the Powers 
who signed the Algeciras Act would have a say, and, if so, what Ger- 



many had said seemed to me to point to a conference in the last resort. 

Count Metternich said that no doubt there were sometimes in treaties 
dark points which it was difficult to interpret, but there were other 
points which were clear. In this case it was very clear that France 
ought to withdraw from any occupation of Morocco extending beyond 
what was contemplated by the Algeciras Act, and the question was not 
one to be submitted to a vote, nor was it open to serious discussion. 
Germany, he repeated, hoped for our support. 

I observed again that the question as to the status quo ante was a 
matter for interpretation, and it would have to be discussed if the 
time came to raise it. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

The following despatch shows the next stage: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen 

July 25, 1911. 

Sir, — The German Ambassador came to see me to-day, and, in reply 
to my question of Monday as to whether I might make use in Parliament 
of the information which the German Government had given that no 
men had been landed at Agadir, he gave me the answer of the German 

The information was confidential, and they must request me to treat 
it as such. They could not consent to its being used in Parliament, 
after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That speech had 
been interpreted without contradiction as having a tone of provocation 
for Germany, and the German Government could not let the belief 
arise that, in consequence of the speech, thy had made a declaration of 
intentions about Morocco. 

I observed that I must say at once that the fact that the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer’s speech, which seemed to me to give no cause for 
complaint, had created surprise was in itself a justification of the speech, 
as it could not have created surprise unless there had been some ten- 
dency to think that we might be disregarded. 

The German Ambassador said that he had a further communication 
to make about the speech, but meanwhile he went on to say that, if an 
understanding with France fell through owing to French resistance, 



Germany must demand that the Treaty of Algeciras be kept, and the 
status quo ante be restored, whether that were agreeable to France 
or not. 

The German Government did not think that a Conference would be 
necessary. Germany, as one of the signatories of the Treaty of Algeciras, 
was entitled by herself to vindicate the rights of the treaty. If, in that 
endeavour, Germany found the support of third parties, it would be 
very welcome, and would facilitate her action. But if, after the many 
provocations from the side of France and her free-and-easy manner in 
Morocco, as if neither Germany nor a treaty existed, France should 
repel the hand which was proffered to her by Germany, German dignity 
as a Great Power would make it necessary to secure by all means, and, 
if necessary, also alone, full respect by France for German treaty right. 

This communication was read to me by Count Metternich, and he 
then proceeded to read to me a further communication. 

The text of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given 
rise, in part of the British Press, and in nearly the whole of the French 
Press, to attacks on Germany. The German Foreign Secretary could 
not say how far this was intended by the British Government. The 
effect of the speech had made a bad impression in Germany, as, owing 
to utterances made by me to Count Metternich, the effect of the speech 
could not have been unforeseen. 

Negotiations were in progress with France to put an end to the 
difficulties which had arisen owing to the free-and-easy way in which 
she had thought it right to disregard the obligations of Algeciras. 
Germany had explicitly and repeatedly declared that she would like, 
without recriminations on the past, to come to a peaceful and amicable 
understanding directly with France. France had accepted this, and 
had agreed to carry on negotiations for the time being secretly. Ger- 
many had made propositions to France that seemed to the German 
Government quite loyal and acceptable. Those propositions concerned 
territories in which English interests were neither directly nor indirectly 

If notwithstanding that, England thought that she ought to express 
some wishes, it might have been expected that these wishes would have 
been transmitted to Germany in the usual diplomatic channel. Instead 
of this, the British Government had, through one of their members, 
given public declarations which, to say the least, could have been 
interpreted as a warning to Germany’s address, and which, as a matter 



of fact, had by the British and French Presses been interpreted as a 
warning bordering on menace. 

Germany could not see by what reasons the British Government had 
been guided. The British Government could not have been in any 
doubt that, by that proceeding, the friendly understanding between 
Germany and France could not be furthered. Considering the tone 
which for some time had been adopted by part of the British Press, 
and by the whole of the French Press, the British Government could 
hardly doubt what effect the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
would have. If the British Government, assuming this as a hypothesis, 
should have had the intention to embroil the political situation and lead 
towards a violent explosion, they could not have chosen a better means 
than the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which took so very 
little into account, with regard to Germany, the dignity and place of a 
Great Power, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed for 
England in that speech. 

I said that I could only repeat what I had already said about the 
speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The speech had not 
claimed anything except that we were entitled to be considered as one 
of the great nations. It had claimed no pre-eminence, and it had not 
even indicated that there was a crisis. It had dealt in general terms 
with remote contingencies. The German Government had said that 
it was not consistent with their dignity, after the speech of the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, to give explanations as to what was taking place at 
Agadir. I felt that the tone of their communication made it not con- 
sistent with our dignity to give explanations as to the speech of the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

This, however, I could genuinely say. It was not intended, by 
anything that had been said, or would be said, to embroil Germany’s 
negotiations with France. On the contrary, we sincerely desired that 
they should succeed. The Foreign Office Vote was to be taken in the 
House of Commons the day after to-morrow, and I would then make 
this clear. But the tone of the German communication was very un- 
favourable also as regards France, and made it more than ever evident 
that a very difficult situation would arise if the German negotiations 
with France did not succeed. 

From this Count Metternich did not dissent. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 






That was the end of this incident, but the negotiations 
dragged on for many weeks yet to come, and there were 
very anxious periods. The Germans at first made such 
huge demands on the French Congo as it was obvious that 
no French Government would concede. The fact was 
that both Governments had got into a very difficult posi- 
tion: each was afraid of its own public opinion. The 
German Government dared not accept little. Their own 
Colonial Party had got their feelings excited and their 
mouth very wide open. If the mouth was not stopped — 
and it would need a big slice to fill it — there would be 
great shouting. The French Colonial party would revolt 
if their Government gave up much. Probably after a 
time the German Government was as anxious as the 
French to get out of the business by a settlement, but 
neither dared settle. 

I was accused afterwards of having been more French 
than the French, and of having made things more diffi- 
cult, because I observed to Metternich that some very 
large demand made by Germany on the French Congo 
was more than France could possibly concede. It was 
supposed that I was urging the French to resist. 

The following two documents will illustrate the line 
taken by me with the French : 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

July 19, 1911. 

Your telegram of July 18. 

Since France considers that the demands made upon her by Germany 
are greater than she can consent to, it is evident that the French 
Government should now make counter-proposals which will embody 
what concessions in the French Congo she is prepared to grant. Any 
concession there considered reasonable by France could not be objected 
to by us. 



I shall telegraph again as to the course developments may take in the 
event of a refusal by Germany to reduce her demands on French Congo. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

September 5, 1911. 

Sir, — M. Cambon showed me to-day a telegraphic summary of the 
conversation of yesterday between the French Ambassador and Herr 
von Kiderlen in Berlin. 

Herr von Kiderlen had, after some discussion, accepted in principle 
the project for what was virtually a French protectorate over Morocco. 
He had made difficulties about the limitation of economic equality to 
thirty years, about the French protectorate over Moorish subjects abroad, 
and about the judicial organization ; and he had protested against the 
proposals about German proteges. He was, however, ready to agree 
to a secret understanding as to the establishment later on of a French 
protectorate, really and technically. He had said that the Germans 
could not give anything in Togoland, and that he must refer all the 
proposals to the Chancellor. 

M. Cambon asked me what I thought of this. 

I said that I expected Herr von Kiderlen would reply that what was 
offered in the French Congo was not enough. Personally, it seemed 
to me that, geographically, climatically, and generally, Morocco was of 
so much greater importance to France than the French Congo that it 
would be a pity for France not to increase her offer of territory in the 
French Congo, if necessary, and if she could get a clean and definitive 
arrangement as to Morocco. Could she not, for instance, give the 
triangle for which Germany asked up to the river Alima? 

M. Cambon said that this was impossible. He said that it must be 
remembered that, after the experience of the arrangement with Ger- 
many of 1909, the French Parliament would be apt to say that what 
was given up in the French Congo was solid, while nothing was being 
obtained from Germany except a bit of paper which might be worth 

I remarked that any cessions of territory in the French Congo might 
be made dependent upon the agreement with Germany being accepted 
by all the other Powers who were parties to the Act of Algeciras. This 
would give France an assured position in Morocco. 


I observed how important it was that, if there was trouble, it should 
be quite clear that it was Germany who forced it. I hoped, therefore, 
that the French would not break off the negotiations. M. Cambon 
replied that the French Ambassador at Berlin was fully aware of the 
importance of this. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

All my effort was to get Germany to moderate her de- 
mands as much as she could and to get France to go as far 
as she could in increasing her offers. Whatever influence 
we had was used in this way to promote a peaceful settle- 

It was my opinion, and that of the Cabinet, that in the 
last resort we should propose a Conference to avert war. 
I spoke of the possibility of this to Metternich : he did not 
hold out much hope that it would find favour at Berlin. 
I sounded the French; they were not inclined to it, at 
any rate not yet. Cambon asked me what we should do if 
Germany refused a Conference. This I could not tell. I 
could only say that public opinion here would be stronger 
if a Conference were refused. No man and no Govern- 
ment could pledge this country in advance to go to war. 

Eventually France and Germany came to terms. France 
got her free hand in Morocco, and Germany got conces- 
sions elsewhere. The Moroccan question was at last out 
of the way, and was not to threaten the peace of Europe 
again. The storm was over, but a ground-swell continued, 
sufficient to give the German Government a tossing in 
their debate in the Reichstag and to excite the Crown 
Prince to a demonstration of feeling on that occasion. 
But the French and German Governments had made up 
their minds to peace. The French took care to make the 
Yellow Book that they published as much of an anodyne 
as possible. It was said at the time that the French 



Ambassador and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs at 
Berlin arranged together that this should be so. 

Two other quotations will show the views I expressed 
to Ambassadors of less interested Powers : 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen 

Foreign Office, 

July 13, 1911. 

Italian Ambassador having asked my opinion about Morocco, I said 
that Germany had opened the question in the worst possible way. 
Having given it to be understood that her interests were only com- 
mercial, she had gone to a port which was closed commercially; she 
has thus made it clear that commercial interests were only a pretext. 
Agadir happened also to be the port most suitable for a naval base. 
Germany had thus at the outset mobilized the whole of British public 
opinion, and made it certain that our interests would be engaged on the 
side of France. 

It is now for Germany, if she wishes to make conversations easy, to 
do so by removing first impression created by her action. 

We do not wish to impede a settlement between her and France, but 
we must wait to know what Germany’s object is before we can decide 
whether British interests require us to intervene in discussions. 

You should adapt your language to these views when the occasion 
demands it, or if it becomes necessary to repeat or supplement what I 
said to German Ambassador on July 4. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir G . Buchanan 

Foreign Office, 

September 4, 1911. 

Sir, — The Russian Ambassador asked me to-day what I thought of 
the prospects of the conversations between France and Germany. 

I said that the outcome was very obscure. The Germans had changed 
their ground so often that it was very difficult to form an opinion. 
There would certainly not be war unless Germany intended to have it. 
If the conversations came to a deadlock, everything would depend upon 
what Germany did. If she took some action to rush matters, either 
by landing a force in Morocco or by sending to France a communication 
in the nature of an ultimatum about the Algeciras Act, such as Count 


Metternich had foreshadowed in a conversation with me some weeks 
ago, it would of course mean that she intended war. But otherwise 
some settlement would be patched up. I said that I understood the 
Russian Government were being kept informed of everything, and I 
asked whether he had any news from St. Petersburg. 

He replied that he had none. 

I told him that Sir Fairfax Cartwright had not been cognizant of 
the articles in the Neue Freie Press e, 1 and the attacks upon him had 
been worked up from German sources. There must have been some 
object in this. It might be that Germany intended to make a settlement 
with France, and to explain that this settlement was not satisfactory 
owing to the action of England. The German Government might 
intend to cover their retreat by giving this explanation to German public 
opinion. It might be one way of securing peace, though it would tend 
to an increase of naval expenditure. 

I observed that the whole matter might have been settled if the 
Germans had gone to the French, when the latter reached Fez, and 
told them quietly that Germany must have a settlement. But when the 
Germans opened the proceedings by sending a warship to Agadir they 
mobilized public opinion here, in France, and in Germany. The 
Germans were now hampered by the public feeling which they had 
themselves created. 

Count Benckendorff expressed himself very decidedly to the effect 
that the sending of a German warship to Agadir was very unfortunate, 
and indeed immoral. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

One more despatch may be worth quoting to show that 
even in Berlin there was sometimes a lighter side to the 
discussions, and that our Ambassador there was not with- 
out a sense of humour: 

Sir E, Goschen to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received August 28) 


August 25, 1911. 

Sir, — I had to-day some conversation with Herr Zimmermann on 
the subject of Morocco, and particularly on the subject of the despatch 

1 An alleged interview with him published by that journal. 


of the Panther to Agadir. He complained bitterly about Mr. Lloyd 
George’s speech, which, he said, had done untold harm both with 
regard to German public opinion and the negotiations. I said that 
for what had done most harm one must go back a little further than 
Mr. Lloyd George’s speech, namely, to the despatch of the German 
warship to Agadir. He said that he had never understood why public 
opinion in England had been upset by that event. “When we informed 

Sir Edward Grey that we were going to send a ship to Agadir ” 

I here interrupted and said, “You mean that you had sent a ship to 
Agadir.” He acquiesced in my interruption, and continuing, said, 
“When we informed Sir Edward Grey that we had sent a ship to 
Agadir he took the news quite quietly, and we had no idea that there 
was going to be all this trouble about it.” I said that it was in my 
recollection that you had spoken strongly to Count Metternich on the 
subject. He said, “Well, at all events, we had no idea that public 
opinion would feel so strongly about it, and Mr. Lloyd George’s speech 
came upon us like a thunderbolt.” He added that the whole trouble 
arose from the fact that it was not recognized in England that the 
despatch of a ship to Agadir, which had been the Emperor’s idea, was 
really meant to make it easier for the French Government to defend 
any compensation they might be ready to give, and which they had 
expressed readiness to give, before the French Parliament. I could not 
help saying that it seemed to me to be a somewhat dubious method of 
facilitating the negotiations, and that I could scarcely fancy a French 
Minister of Foreign Affairs standing up in the French Parliament and 
saying that he had to yield to German demands for compensation 
because Germany, as a hint that she meant business, had sent a warship 
to a closed Moroccan port. Besides, I added, I thought that the 
Panther had been sent to protect the lives and property of the employees 
of certain Hamburg merchants. “Ah!” said Herr Zimmermann, “that 
was the primary reason, and the reason for the urgency which prevented 
us from informing the Powers of our intention. But it was thought, 
all the same, that it would have a good effect on the negotiations in the 
way I have just stated.” I am bound to say that even Herr Zimmer- 
mann smiled when I mentioned the Hamburg merchants. I said that 
I was glad to know the real reason why the ship had been sent to 
Agadir, but I thought, if he would allow me to say so, that it might 
have been wiser if, before M. Cambon left Kissingen, he had been 
consulted as to whether the despatch of the Panther would have thq 


salutary effect on the negotiations which the Imperial Government 
anticipated. To this Herr Zimmermann replied that he was not at 

Berlin at the time, or perhaps . Here he broke off his sentence, 

which would seem to imply that he agreed with me. 

Herr Zimmermann went over a lot of old ground, and spoke at some 
length as to the disappointment Germany had felt at our attitude, the 
growing excitement in German public opinion, the irritation of the 
Emperor, and many other things which you have repeatedly heard from 
Count Metternich, and which I have reported as having been said by 
the Emperor. I need not, therefore, trouble you with the rest of his 

The reasons, however, which he gave me for the despatch of a ship 
to Agadir are, as far as I am aware, quite new, and therefore may be 
of some interest. — I have, etc., 

W. E. Goschen. 

The summer of 1911 was one of splendid heat; such a 
summer as comes seldom in England; it surpassed any- 
thing known in this generation. If my memory is correct, 
there were not less than thirteen days distributed through 
the summer when the temperature was 90 degrees or more 
in the shade — Greenwich reported 100 degrees on one 
day, but I have always doubted this figure : no other place 
got within 3 or 4 degrees of the 100. Still, it was very hot, 
and even when Parliament was not sitting, the prolonged 
Agadir crisis prevented me from enjoying the glorious 
weather at Fallodon. One other colleague, not tied to 
London by official work, kept me company for love of the 
crisis. Winston Churchill was then at the Home Office, 
but he followed the anxieties of the Foreign Office with 
intense interest and, I imagine, saw much of Sir Henry 
Wilson, then at the War Office — at any rate, he insisted on 
taking me once to see Wilson, and their talk was keen and 
apparently not the first that they had had. Let me not be 
supposed to imply that Churchill was working for war, or 



desired it: he followed all the diplomacy closely, but 
never either in Council or in conversation with me did he 
urge an aggressive line. It was only that his high-metalled 
spirit was exhilarated by the air of crisis and high events. 
His companionship was a great refreshment, and late in 
the afternoon he would call for me and take me to the 
Automobile Club, which was but thinly populated, like 
other clubs, at that season. There, after what had been to 
me a weary, perhaps an anxious, day he would cool his 
ardour and I revive my spirits in the swimming bath. 

What was the real motive that underlay the despatch 
of the Panther to Agadir? 

Whoever has been inside British foreign policy is 
familiar with the emotion of indignation, amusement, or 
contempt with which he reads of the deep motives and 
the clever schemes that are invented for present-day 
British diplomatists and attributed to them by ingenious 
writers in foreign, and sometimes even in the British, 
press. One who is conscious of this may well be cautious 
in attributing deep and sinister designs to the action of 
foreign Governments. I therefore give, with all reserve, 
the theory that seemed to me best to fit the facts. 

One thing seems to be certain. The appeal of Ham- 
burg merchants, the original reason given by the German 
Government for the despatch of the Panther to Agadir, 
was not the real reason ; there was something behind that, 
at any rate. We had assumed that the forced dismissal 
of Delcasse in 1905 and the dragging of France to a 
Conference at Algeciras in 1906 were an attempt to break 
the newly formed Anglo-French Entente by demonstrat- 
ing to France that friendship with Britain would bring 
France more trouble than help. On this assumption 
Agadir would be a second attempt to effect the same 


object. It would, in my opinion, be contrary to evidence 
and reason to suggest that the Bosnia-Herzegovina Crisis 
of 1908-9 was engineered by Germany to shake the rela- 
tions between Britain, France, and Russia; but the result 
of it had been to damage in Russia the prestige of the 
alliance with France, and to lower Russian opinion of the 
value of British friendship. This may have encouraged 
the notion that another crisis directed against France was 
not an entirely hopeless project. On this theory Germany 
must have contemplated the contingency of war with 
France, if need be. Had the crisis led to war, this would 
have come at the very season that we know was favoured 
for the purpose by German military leaders in 1870, and 
that was selected for the menace to France in 1903, and 
that we believe was decided by the military authorities 
for war in 1914. 

If this theory be correct, if the Agadir Crisis was 
intended to end either in the diplomatic humiliation of 
France or in war, why was it allowed to end without 
effecting either object? One answer would be that in 
1 9 1 1 the German Fleet was not so strong as in 1914, 
nor the German Army at the same height of equipment 
to which it was subsequently brought by her capital levy. 
Germany had, therefore, decided not to risk war with 
Britain, and when it became apparent that there was this 
risk she switched, difficult as it then was to do so, on to 
a policy of certain peace. Before the crisis she may have 
been encouraged to think the risk of war with Britain 
negligible, or even remote. My own conduct of Foreign 
Affairs had become very unpopular with part of the 
Liberal Press and was the subject of open criticism. The 
writers of these criticisms made the mistake, as is so often 
done, of attributing all that they disliked to the influence 



of one man, not realizing that all important telegrams 
to and from the Foreign Office were circulated every 
day to the Cabinet, and that it is impossible for any 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs to continue in his post 
unless he has the general approval of the Cabinet. How 
much the impression made in Germany by these Liberal 
critics was increased by sources with which the agent9 
of the German Embassy in London were bound to be in 
touch I never knew or enquired. The surmise is that 
Germany thought, for one reason or another, that we 
should be less firm in 19 11 in a Morocco Crisis than we 
were in 1906. If so, the speech of Lloyd George must 
have upset the whole of their calculations. 

We were told at the time, with what truth I do not 
know, that, when it seemed possible that war might come, 
the great financial interests in Germany strongly opposed 
it, urging that they had not been warned in time to make 
suitable arrangements. If this be true, the fact that the 
German Government had not warned their financiers can 
only be accounted for in one of two ways : either they had 
overlooked the necessity for warning them, or else this 
theory that the German Government had contemplated 
and deliberately provoked the contingency of war is not 
correct. Some day perhaps the Germans will tell us — if 
they really know, or have still the means of finding out 
the truth. 

The end was almost a fiasco for Germany; out of this 
mountain of a German-made crisis had come a mouse of 
colonial territory in tropical Africa. France was left 
with her prestige intact and free of the Morocco thumb- 
screws. Happily there was sufficient criticism of what 
France had ceded to prevent the end being regarded in 
France as a triumph. Colonial Parties in France, as in 


Britain and elsewhere, are apt to estimate portions of 
tropical Africa by their extent in square miles and not 
by their real value. Lloyd George, of course, made no 
speech about having supported France in shining armour. 
But the consequences of such a foreign crisis do not end 
with it. They seem to end, but they go underground 
and reappear later on. The militarists in Germany were 
bitterly disappointed over Agadir, and when the next 
crisis came we found them with the reins in their hands 
at Berlin. 

So also with the consequences of the Bosnia-Herze- 
govina crisis; in 1914 Germany and Austria found a 
Russia that would not collapse to order a second time. 

Since 1906 I had made no enquiry whether the British 
and French military authorities were remaining in close 
touch, though I had assumed that they were doing so. 
Agadir made it certain that their preparations would be 
kept up to date. This reflection suggested to me in later 
years a train of thought that took shape in imagining the 
indictment that Bismarck, could he have been a spectator 
of it all, might have brought against his successors, partic- 
ularly in their dealings with Britain. 

“I left you,” he might say, “predominant in Europe 
with a strong Triple Alliance. 

“It may be that the Franco-Russian Alliance could not 
be prevented; the very strength of the Triple Alliance 
was almost bound to call that counter-Alliance into being. 
But when it was made there was no chance of England 
joining it; indeed, the Alliance seemed directed more 
against England than against Germany, so bad were the 
relations of England with both France and Russia. At 
length England, in her discomfort, publicly through 
Chamberlain offered us an Alliance. You rejected it, 



and added to English discomfort by starting a naval pro- 
gramme, which everybody considered a challenge to the 
British Fleet. At last England and France, tired of their 
quarrels, perceived that these were a danger to themselves 
and an advantage to Germany, and English statesmen, 
weary of the discomfort of their isolation and apprehen- 
sive for the future, found French statesmen ready to make 
up their quarrels in the Anglo-French Agreement of 
1904. Thereupon you threatened France; she gave up 
Delcasse ; you saved that point, but in doing so you turned 
the Anglo-French Agreement into an Entente. Mean- 
while, you made no attempt to check the hatred of Eng- 
land that was felt in Germany, not understanding that, 
to indulge hatred is sure to spoil wise policy and sound 
statecraft. And those speeches of the Emperor, who 
thought, even while I lived, that he could do better, with- 
out than with me; those ‘shining armour’ and ‘mailed 
fist’ speeches, those rattlings of the sword, which, though 
he personally never desired to draw in great conflict, 
nevertheless made other nations look nervously to the 
state of their own weapons. You increased the naval 
competition and rejected, sometimes even resented, Eng- 
lish overtures for a naval agreement. As if England 
could possibly give up the naval competition, the Navy 
being to her all that the Army was to Germany. 

“Meanwhile, as if to make sure that English and 
French military as well as naval authorities kept their 
arrangements up to the mark, you got up the crisis of 
Agadir. What purpose did that business serve, except 
to bring England and France closer together? 

“And finally, you let your military staffs prepare a 
war plan, of which the unprovoked invasion of Belgium 
was a cardinal point, and you think to this day that the 


invasion of Belgium had nothing to do with England’s 
entry into war against you. I will tell you what I would 
have done. After the Franco-Russian Alliance was made 
I should have foreseen that, in spite of an English Min- 
ister’s boast about ‘splendid isolation’ the discomfort of 
England’s position must bring her to Germany, and when 
the offer came, as come it did to you, I would have made 
sure that it did not come to nothing. There would then 
have been no agreement with France, or, if there had 
been, it would have been conditioned by the Alliance or 
previous Agreement with Germany. I should have had 
my hand in it, and known all about it; and I should also 
have known all about the relations between England and 
Russia, just as you knew when Austria and Russia joined 
in the Miirzsteg programme about the Balkans. Then, 
when the Russian Fleet had been destroyed by the Jap- 
anese, I should have made the German Fleet strong 
enough to over-match the French, telling England my 
object and stopping naval expenditure there. England 
in this policy would have been no obstacle to German 
commercial expansion; even as it was, she practically 
came to agreement with you about the Bagdad Railway. 

“Then, if I thought the time had come for war, I should 
have remembered how, in 1870, the British Government 
required me, as a condition of neutrality, to sign an agree- 
ment to respect Belgium, and what English statesmen 
said about it at the time. I should have made sure 
whether English feeling was still the same, and have told 
the General Staff that they must have a plan that did not 
involve Belgium, or else they must have no war. With 
England neutral, I should have been sure of Italy; with 
France and Russia unable to maintain supplies of muni- 
tions v or even to purchase them from abroad, the war 


would not have been long and victory would have been 
certain. Then easy terms for France and Russia, as for 
Austria in 1866, and Germany would have been supreme 
on the Continent. England would, meanwhile, by the 
development of modern weapons and aircraft, have lost 
much of the safety she once had as an island : she would 
have had no friend but Germany, and Germany could 
have made that friendship what she pleased.” 

Germans can judge whether such a policy as is here 
suggested for Bismarck was possible for them. Had such 
a policy been pursued by Germany, I think it not only 
possible, but almost certain, that British Ministers and 
British opinion would have reacted to it as described. 
The result would have been German predominance and 
British dependence, but this would not have been foreseen 
in London till too late. 

It was shortly after the Agadir Crisis that a change 
was made in the German Embassy in London. Metter- 
nich left. He had been rigid in upholding the German 
view against ours. Over and over again he had covered 
the ground in the way of which some records of conversa- 
tion printed in this book are examples. I used to com- 
pare these conversations to well-known movements on a 
parade-ground. But I always felt, with Metternich, that 
whatever I said would be faithfully reported by him; 
that no chance and unintentional slip of mine in our many 
conversations would be turned to unfair advantage; that 
nothing would be distorted or misrepresented. In the 
whole of our transactions I never found reason to com- 
plain of any unfairness. It was also my impression that, 
however stiff Metternich might be in upholding the views 
of his Government to us, however little disposed he 


seemed to concede anything, yet in his own reports to 
Berlin he put the British view in the most favourable 
light that he thought could fairly be placed upon it. 

I regretted his departure, and the farewell dinner given 
to him at the Foreign Office was not a political gesture, 
but a genuine expression of personal regard. 

Metternich was succeeded by Baron Marschall von 
Bieberstein. He had been Foreign Secretary at Berlin 
when I had become Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office 
in London, nearly twenty years before. The impression 
I had then got from reports to the Foreign Office was 
that of a very able Foreign Secretary, but not very 
friendly to us. He had now for many years been German 
Ambassador at Constantinople, where he had furthered 
the pro-Abdul Hamid policy of his Government with 
conspicuous ability and with great success in enhancing 
German political influence and commercial interests in 
the Turkish Empire. We respected his ability, but 
regarded this German policy at Constantinople as 
unscrupulous and detestable. We therefore felt his 
coming to London to be a somewhat formidable and not 
altogether auspicious event. We expected him, as an able 
diplomatist, to begin by making himself agreeable, but 
we were prepared to be on our guard. 

When he arrived he told me that he did not wish to 
enter upon any discussions at present; he had come to 
take up his post formally; when this was done he would 
return to Germany and come back to take up the work 
permanently. I gathered that he desired to gain first 
impressions of us and of the situation in London, and 
then to consult his own Government as to the opening 
line he should take. He came to lunch with me quietly 
that we might make further personal acquaintance and 



began very pleasantly by telling me he had noticed in 
some speech of mine a sentence with which he entirely 
agreed. The sentence he had selected was (I quote from 
memory) : “It is not hard to tell the truth ; the difficulty 

is to get it believed.” This he endorsed with great 
approval, but what impressed me most was the emphasis 
with which he spoke of the need for upholding civil 
authority and law against forces that are disposed to dis- 
regard them. He did not specify militarism as one of 
these forces, but it may well be that it was in his mind. 
At any rate, the manner and substance of what he said 
set me wondering whether he was thinking of forces that 
had caused his own removal from the Foreign Office at 
Berlin. I never knew what had brought this about; it 
was certainly not incompetence on his part. 

He gave the impression of a man whose life had been 
given without relief to hard work. His strength was now 
ebbing, and it was touching as well as admirable to see 
the energy with which he addressed h mself to his new 
and important work here. He evidently understood 
English well, but it appeared to be an effort for him to 
speak it. It was an effort that he would not spare him- 
self; to make it was to him part of the thorough perform- 
ance of his work in London. After a short stay he left 
us, as had been intended, to prepare for his return to take 
up the heavy and continuous work of his post; but his 
strength was spent and he died. 

The impression he made was of a man old and worn 
with toil, but so devoted to his country :hat he was deter- 
mined to serve it thoroughly and strenuously to the end. 
This impression was so strong and remarkable that it has 
remained outstanding in my memory. This, I suppose, 
is why it has been given space here out of all proportion 


to the political importance of my dealings with him; for 
we met only a very few times, and transacted no business 
with each other. 

He was succeeded in London by Prince Lichnowsky 
of whom more will be said later on. He came desiring 
to see the peace of Europe kept, and for that he worked 
earnestly and sincerely, till the events of 1914 over- 
whelmed him, and everyone else who had tried to prevent 

The sentence quoted above as to the difficulty in getting 
the truth believed recalls a saying, attributed, whether 
rightly or not I do not know, to Bismarck. It is to the 
effect that the most certain way in diplomacy to deceive 
people is to tell them the truth; for they never believe it. 
And this suggests the reflection that in Foreign Affairs 
generally more mischief and loss has been incurred owing 
to incredulity than credulity. Perhaps because the 
former is so much more common. 



Haldane’s Visit to Berlin — Advantages and Drawbacks — An Unaccept- 
able Formula — Continuance of Naval Rivalry — The Attack upon 
Turkey — Victory of the Balkan Allies — Bulgaria Dissatisfied — 
Second Balkan War — Defeat of Bulgaria — Treaty of Bucharest 
— Its Consequences — Complications between the Powers — The 
Ambassadors’ CDnference — Questions at Issue — Albania, Scutari, 
and the iEgean Islands — Servian Claims and Austrian Opposition 
— The Importance of Djakova — A Peaceful Settlement — Cambon, 
Benckendorff and Lichnowsky — A Neglected Precedent. 

D URING all this period, whenever we seemed to 
be in sight of improved relations with Germany, 
we were thrown back by the continued expansion 
of the German Fleet. It has since been made clear that 
Germany was aiming at a position on the sea which must 
have been a most serious danger to the British Empire; 
and so well aware were German statesmen of that fact 
that they habitually spoke of the period of their naval 
construction as “the danger-zone ” 1 for Germany, thus 
implying that Great Britain might have been expected to 
anticipate the danger by attacking Germany, and destroy- 
ing her fleet before it became too strong. Germany was 
undoubtedly within her rights in challenging our sea- 
power, but in so doing she compelled us to find safety both 
by increasing our naval construction and by a policy 
which would not leave us exposed to the hostility of other 
naval Powers. A desire for peace and friendship entered 

1 See von Tirpitz, My Memories , p. 195. 



largely into our relations with France, but German action 
made them in this sense a practical necessity. 

We were always ready for accommodation, but the 
results of our overtures had been so disappointing and 
the successive German Navy Bills 1 seemed to indicate 
so persistent an intention that scepticism on our side was 
justifiable. So, when I was informed, at the beginning 
of 1912, that the German Emperor would welcome the 
visit of a British Minister to discuss the question at Berlin, 
I was willing but not hopeful. 

The intimation had come through an unofficial chan- 
nel ; it had not come to me, but had reached members of 
the Cabinet who were likely to be most favourable to it. 
The information was very vague. I did not feel at all 
confident that the Emperor had taken any initiative in 
the matter. I never knew whether the suggestion had 
really emanated from a British or a German source. It 
was, however, put before me by some of my colleagues 
as something on which the German Emperor had 
expressed a wish; if so, it would be a wanton rebuff to 
refuse it. At the time I thought it was possibly one of 
those petty, unofficial manoeuvres that could be avowed 
or disavowed at Berlin, as best might suit German con- 
venience. If a British Minister did not go to Berlin, the 
inaction might be represented as an uncivil rebuff on our 
part of a friendly German invitation. If a Minister did 
go, the visit would be represented as a voluntary British 
overture, which Germany had not invited, but to which 
the Emperor had graciously responded. Thus Germany 
would get some advantage either way; but it seemed 
preferable that she should have the credit of being gra- 

1 For a convenient summary of these Bills see Asquith’s Genesis of the War , 
chapters x and xii. 



cious to us rather than that we should be accused of 
discourtesy to her. 

One objection was that the visit might arouse suspicion 
and distrust at Paris. I did not consider that this ought 
to prevent the visit, for an Entente is not worth much 
unless the nations who are parties to it can trust each 
other, and by this time France ought to have felt that she 
could trust us. There was nothing in the Anglo-French 
Entente that made it inconsistent for us to be on friendly 
terms with Germany. We could not, of course, enter into 
any engagement with Germany that would prevent us 
from giving France the diplomatic support promised in 
the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904; it would also be 
the height of dishonour to make an agreement with Ger- 
many that would tie our hands and oblige us to remain 
neutral in a war between France and Germany. We had 
not, indeed, pledged ourselves to support France in such 
a war. On the contrary, we had preserved our freedom 
not to participate in it; but we were bound to preserve 
the freedom of Britain to help France, if the country so 
desired. According to my recollection, for no record of 
the conversation has been found, I informed Cambon of 
the projected visit and assured him that we should do 
nothing with Germany that would tie our hands. As 
long as that condition was observed I considered that the 
French had no reason to be anxious, and ought indeed 
to be well content: for good relations between Britain 
and Germany ought to make things more, and not less, 
pleasant for France. 

The question of French susceptibility was therefore not 
a valid reason against this British visit to Berlin. But I 
had no great hope that anything would come of it. There 
had been no preparation of the ground : there was nothing 

Photograph by Reginald Haines 



to indicate that a substantial agreement with Germany 
about navies was possible, and without that there could 
be no agreement that would really be a rapprochement. 

It was therefore desirable that the visit of a British 
Minister should be private and informal, so that, if 
nothing came of it, there should be no sensation and little 
disappointment to the public. Accordingly, we agreed 
that Haldane should go. He was in the habit of visiting 
Germany; he had friendly personal relations with the 
Emperor and other important personages; his visit could 
be made more natural and less artificial than that of any 
other Minister. If nothing came of it, it would not have 
the appearance of an unusual effort and great failure; if 
the time was opportune for rapprochement , Haldane 
better than anyone else would be able to discover and 
improve it. 

I agreed without demur and with good-will to Hal- 
dane’s visit. I always felt that the pro-German element 
here had a right to demand that our foreign policy should 
go to the utmost point that it could to be friendly to 
Germany. That point would be passed only when some- 
thing was proposed that would tie us to Germany and 
break the Entente with France. Not only were people 
entitled to demand this of British foreign policy, but it 
was essential that those who set most store by the Entente 
with France should concede it. To do so was the only 
way to preserve unity of support in the Cabinet and in the 
Liberal Party for the Anglo-French Entente. 

Haldane has given his own account of the visit. The 
upshot was that the Germans were not really willing to 
give up the naval competition, and that they wanted a 
political formula that would in effect compromise our 
freedom of action. We could not fetter ourselves by a 



promise to be neutral in a European war. We had, 
indeed, no intention of supporting France, and still less 
.Russia, in a war of aggression : we had a very real deter- 
mination not to support any aggressor, and we were ready 
to say so. But there was no formula that could be trusted 
to define the real aggressor in advance. The revelation 
of Bismarck’s methods in the notorious Ems despatch was 
a warning against the futility of such formulae. We were 
bound to keep our hands free and the country uncom- 
promised as to its liberty of judgment, decision, and 

The section at home that was most distrustful of Ger- 
many, that was in fact anti-German, was unfavourable to 
the Haldane visit. Von Tirpitz and the naval authorities 
probably detested it. They were determined to pursue 
their naval policy, and the visit was bound either to inter- 
fere with this policy or to come to nothing. We discussed 
the result of the visit in the Cabinet on Haldane’s return, 
but we had to realize that political formulae are not safe, 
and that a substantial naval agreement, such as would 
relax tension and give security, was not to be obtained. 

On the question of the naval competition and our rela- 
tions with Germany generally, the following three private 
letters to Sir E. Goschen, our Ambassador in Berlin, may 
be inserted here, though they belong to various dates. 
They show the interchanges of views that took place from 
time to time between 1910 and 1913 and the difficulties 
that attended them : 

From Sir E . Grey to Sir E . Goschen 

Foreign Office, 

May 5, 1910. 

My dear Goschen, — I have not seen the Prime Minister for three 
weeks, but even if I had seen him I am sure he has been far too busy, 


during the last weeks of the part of the Session just closed, to be able 
to go into Bethmann-Hollweg’s proposals. So what I send you now 
are my own personal reflections ; but you may use them as such at your 
discretion if you are pressed in further conversation with the Chancellor 
or Schoen. 

I entirely understand the Chancellor’s difficulty in giving us the 
southern end of the Bagdad Railway without getting in return some- 
thing which Germany will look upon as a quid pro quo . I have the 
same difficulty here in giving what he asks: for British public opinion 
is not less exacting than German. 

Crawford, of the Turkish Customs Service, tells me that 65 per cent, 
of the trade with Mesopotamia is British. On this trade, in the first 
instance, will fall the burden of the 4 per cent, increase 1 (in Turkish 
Customs) until it is passed on to the Turkish consumer. There will be 
a great outcry when the increase is made, and I shall have all I can do 
to get public opinion here to recognize that participation in the Bagdad 
Railway is an adequate quid pro quo for a new burden upon British 
trade, only a part of which is interested in Mesopotamia. This is my 
first difficulty. It would be insuperable if I had to make another set 
of concessions as well. 

In the next place, with regard to any understanding with Germany : 
the attention of public opinion here is concentrated on the mutual 
arrest or decrease of naval expenditure as the test of whether an under- 
standing is worth anything. In the first overtures of Bethmann- 
Hollweg last year I felt that the naval question was not sufficiently 
prominent. Since then it has receded into the background, and the 
perspective of his last proposals is therefore even less advantageous. 
This is an important point. 

In the third place, there is this difficulty with regard to any general 
political understanding: we cannot sacrifice the friendship of Russia 
or of France. There is no intention of using either for aggressive 
purposes against Germany. When Germany settled her difficulty with 
France about Morocco, not only was I free from jealousy, but I had 
a sense of absolute relief. I had hated the prospect of friendship with 
France involving friction with Germany, and I rejoiced when this 

1 The general idea of the negotiations on the Bagdad Railway was that the 
Germans should cede the southern section of the railway to us, and that we 
should consent to a 4 per cent, increase in Turkish customs to enable the Turks 
to make good their kilometric guarantee for the construction of the line, 


prospect disappeared. My attitude is the same with regard to Germany’s 
difficulty with Russia about Persia. Also, I am quite sure that neither 
France nor Russia wishes to quarrel with Germany: indeed, I know 
that they wish to avoid a quarrel. So on this ground I am quite easy. 
But I cannot enter into any agreement with Germany which would 
prevent me from giving to France or Russia, should Germany take up 
towards either of them an aggressive attitude such as she took up 
towards France about Morocco, the same sort of support as I gave to 
France at the time of the Algeciras Conference and afterwards until she 
settled her difficulty with Germany. Any agreement which prevented 
the giving of such support would obviously forfeit the friendship of 
France and Russia, and this is what makes me apprehensive of trouble 
in finding a political formula. — Yours sincerely, 

(Signed) E. Grey. 

Foreign Office, 

October 26, 1910. 

My dear Goschen, — I must defer comments upon the Chancellor’s 
proposals about the Navy and the political understanding until we have 
had time for consideration. 

But meanwhile I wish to say that the German suggestion that France 
and Russia ought to become parties to a naval agreement is very wel- 
come: for it opens the way for our saying, at an opportune moment, 
what I have always thought to be the only possible solution, that France 
and Russia must be parties to a political agreement. Further, with the 
present prospect of great naval expenditure by the Allies of Germany, 
Austria-Hungary and Italy, I think we may have to say that a naval 
agreement will be of no use unless they also are parties to it. That 
would bring into the naval and political understanding all the six greatest 
Powers of Europe. 

If we can avoid treading upon French corns with regard to Alsace 
and Lorraine, I believe that five of these Powers would welcome such 
an Agreement, and a diminution of naval expenditure; for not one of 
these five Powers has designs of aggrandizement, and they all desire 
peace. But on Germany’s part such an Agreement would mean the 
renunciation of ambitions for the hegemony of Europe. The way in 
which she receives the proposal, if it is eventually made, will be a test 
of whether she really desires peace and security from all attack for 



herself, or whether she has ambitions which can be gratified only at the 
expense of other Powers. — Yours sincerely, 

E. Grey. 


March 5, 1913. 

My dear Goschen, — Nicolson showed me your private and personal 
letter to him, from which it appears that you did not understand my 
motive in writing to you about Tirpitz’s naval statement. 1 The fault 
is mine, because I had not time to explain all the circumstances. 

For seven years some of the Pan-Germans in Germany have been 
working upon Pro-Germans in this country. The Pan-Germans are 
Chauvinists; our Pro-Germans are pacifists; but the latter are, never- 
theless, very subject to the influence of the former. 

It came to my knowledge that Professor Schiemann, one of the 
Pan-Germans aforesaid, had written to one of the Pro-Germans here 
after Tirpitz’s speech, emphasizing the friendly nature of the statement, 
and saying that everything would depend upon whether we responded 
to it. 

I had no intention of responding by proposing a naval agreement. 

In the first place, I had been given to understand, indirectly, that 
when Lichnowsky came here he hoped that I would not raise the question 
of naval expenditure with him. 

In the second place, if I were to do so, the naval Press Bureau in 
Germany would, if it suited it, construe my action as an attempt to 
put pressure on Germany to reduce her naval expenditure ; and Tirpitz 
might, at some future time, say that his moderate statement had been 
abused for this purpose, and that therefore he could not say anything 
again of which similar advantage might be taken. 

But, if Lichnowsky were to say anything to me about the statements 
of Tirpitz and Jagow to the Budget Committee as reported in the 
Press, or if Jagow were to say anything to you, and we made no 
response at all, it seems to me that we might be represented as having 
put our hand behind our back in a repellent fashion. Of this the 
Pan-Germans would take full advantage with the Pro-Germans here. 

I think, therefore, that you might say, but only if you are obliged to 

1 Statement to the Budget Committee of the Reichstag, February 6th and 7th, 

24B twenty-five years 

say something, that the statements reported in the proceedings of the 
German Budget Committee will have a favourable effect upon the 
tone of Churchill's statement in Parliament here. This will, of course, 
be the case. They will not affect the substance of the statement as 
regards our own naval expenditure, but I hope that they will enable 
the tone of the statement to be less stiff than it has been before, when 
we have been continually faced with fresh increases of German naval 

I hope that this will make clear to you the motive of my previous 
letter to you. 

The Pan-Germans have worked upon the Pro-Germans here with 
varying intensity, but with unvarying want of success so far as influen- 
cing the foreign policy of the British Government is concerned. But 
this is no reason why we should give them more material than we can 

I do not, however, wish you to say anything about Tirpitz's state- 
ment, unless something is said to you, because I agree that what Tirpitz 
said does not amount to much, and the reason of his saying it is not 
the love of our beautiful eyes, but the extra fifty millions required for 
increasing the German Army. 

Nevertheless, our relations with Germany have improved because 
Kiderlen worked for peace in the Balkan Crisis and Jagow has done 
the same, and I shall do my part to keep relations cordial as long as 
the German Government will also do their part in good faith. To be 
sure of each other's good faith is all that is wanted to make our relations 
all that can be desired. 1 — Yours sincerely , 1 

E. Grey. 

I must now pass to the Balkan War and the Ambas- 
sadors’ Conference which were the main events of the 
years 1912-13. 

Abdul Hamid has already been called the Equilibrium 
in the Near East. He had understood perfectly the 
forces by which he was surrounded; he knew the trend 

1 This letter was written on the assumption that von Tirpitz’s statement was 
not intended to lead to negotiations for a naval agreement. There is nothing in 
what had preceded or what has become known since to suggest that this assump- 
tion was incorrect. 


of each, its strength and its limitations. He knew the 
aspirations of Russia as regards the Straits and Constanti- 
nople, but he knew also that, if Russia pressed him too 
hard, she would find Europe once more arraigned against 
her to set bounds to her action, as in the Treaty of Berlin 
in 1878. He heard, probably with anger, but without 
anxiety, the loud indignation of British public opinion, 
aroused by Armenian massacres or Macedonian atrocities: 
for he knew that the British Fleet could not come to the 
mountains of Armenia, and that, if Britain went so far 
as to raise the question of Constantinople and the Straits, 
Europe would intervene and prevent the upset of the 
status quo. The Great Powers dared not allow that status 
quo to be disturbed, lest they should fight amongst them- 
selves. Lord Salisbury, once the partner in Disraeli’s 
pro-Turkish policy, but since those days shocked to the 
extreme by the iniquities of Turkish misrule, had swung 
right away and declared that in backing Turks Britain 
had put her money on the wrong horse. Even this did 
not disturb Abdul Hamid. He had lost Britain as the 
champion of Turkey, but he had made an active friend 
of Germany. He took pains to foster and attach this 
friendship by commercial concessions and the attractive 
prospect of the development of Asia Minor. French 
financiers, too, had considerable interests in Constanti- 
nople. Behind all these vested interests and counter- 
balancing political forces Abdul Hamid sat securely 

The pressure for Macedonian Reforms worried him; 
but he knew that Austria and Russia would not let outside 
Powers deal with this question alone, and that Britain 
was the only outside Power that was much stirred by it. 
He relied upon the rivalry between Austria and Russia 



to prevent them from agreeing upon anything that would 
be very thorough. Their rivalry with each other would 
limit their agreement to press him for Macedonian 
Reforms; their united jealousy of the interference of any 
outside Powers in Macedonia would be a bulwark to him 
against Britain. 

As for internal affairs, Abdul Hamid could rely upon 
the hatred of his Christian subjects for each other. 
United in creed, they were divided in race; and the repul- 
sion of race hatred was stronger than the attraction of 
religious affinity. These hatreds he fostered and used, 
and on them, and on his skill in playing upon them, he 
relied to prevent internal upheavals and even a combina- 
tion of Christian Balkan States against him. 

All the forces, external and internal, the play of them, 
and how to manipulate them for his own purposes Abdul 
Hamid understood to the utmost limit of human ingenu- 
ity. But all men must decline, and when Abdul Hamid’s 
powers began to fail there came the internal upheaval, 
the Turkish Revolution that deposed him. 

The change was great. Crafty, ruthless, unscrupulous 
ability had been concentrated to an extraordinary and 
malignant degree in Abdul Hamid — concentrated, that is 
to say, in one person with supreme authority. Now this 
was gone. The leaders of the Revolution had ability, 
and they were not more hampered by pity or by scruples 
than Abdul Hamid had been; but they were several per- 
sons, and not one with supreme authority. Their force 
was dispersed among many, and soon became dissipated 
in personal rivalries and intrigues. Then the European 
neighbours of Turkey began to move to their own advan- 
tage, as it seemed at first, but, as it proved later, to their 
own great distress, and, in some cases, ruin. 



It was as if Abdul Hamid, in playing, for his own evil 
purposes, upon the weaknesses of his neighbours to keep 
them quiet, had been wiser in their interests than they 
themselves proved to be when he was gone. 

First Austria moved, and annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina. 
Then Italy conquered Tripoli. Finally Greece, Bul- 
garia, Serbia, and Montenegro made a league, and fell 
upon Turkey. The cause was just: it was the emancipa- 
tion of the Christian subjects of Turkey in South-East 
Europe. But, in acting thus, the members of the Balkan 
League liberated forces the full effect of which they did 
not foresee, and set in motion rivalries among themselves 
which they could not control. 

Austria’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was the 
first disturbance of the status quo of Turkey; Italy’s con- 
quest of Tripoli was a shock to it; the Balkan Allies 
destroyed it. The enhanced position of Serbia, conse- 
quent upon the victories of the Balkan Allies, made Aus- 
tria sensitive and apprehensive. Finally came the mur- 
der of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, and Austria, in 
the excitement that followed, launched the ultimatum to 
Serbia that precipitated the Great War. This was the 
chain of events that began with the Turkish Revolution 
and led straight to the catastrophe of 1914; but the cause 
of the Great War lies deeper than this chain of events, 
and must be discussed elsewhere. 

Turkey, weakened by the Revolution and the dissen- 
sions that followed it, could not stand against the attack 
of the Balkan Allies. The pent-up hatred of generations 
was combined for the moment against her. The Bul- 
garian onset was particularly vigorous. By December 
the Balkan Allies had victories and conquest sufficient to 
force Turkey to an armistice and to the discussion of 



humiliating terms of peace. The belligerents chose 
London for the meeting-place, and their delegates assem- 
bled there in December 1912. 

Rooms were set apart for them in St. James’s Palace, 
and on behalf of the British Government I met them there 
to give a formal but cordial welcome and express our 
good-will to their efforts to arrange a peace. 

Turkey, it appeared, could be brought to terms that 
would give Greece and Serbia what they wanted; but it 
was more difficult to satisfy Bulgaria. Bulgarian claims 
came nearer to the heart, to Constantinople. She insisted 
on the cession to her of Adrianople, which was not yet 
conquered. Turkey would not yield this: Bulgaria 

pressed for it, and claimed that her Allies, who were all 
pledged with her to wage war together and to make peace 
only in common should, if need be, continue the war. It 
appeared that peace would be wrecked on this point. I 
had taken no part in the negotiations; they did not touch 
British interests, and were not our affair; but occasionally 
some of the delegates paid me an informal visit at the 
Foreign Office. At this crisis I had thus an opportunity 
of conversing with the chief Bulgarian delegate and ven- 
tured to speak a word or two in favour of making peace. 
It was probable that, if the war were resumed, Bulgaria 
would take Adrianople; but in war there were always 
risks. Bulgaria and the Allies had now in their grasp 
the certainty of a favourable peace. If war were resumed 
in order to add Adrianople to the great aims already 
assured there must be some, even though it were a remote, 
risk. Such, according to recollection, was the tenor of 
my remarks. These were but tentative, for it was not my 
affair; and they were vague, for I could not foresee what 
form the risk might assume. The Bulgarian delegate 



replied confidently that they were prepared to take the 
risk. Their Peace Conference broke up, and the war was 

It is not necessary to do more than summarize what 
followed. Adrianople was taken, but Bulgaria and 
Greece fell out: Bulgaria accused Greece of exploiting 
the common victory to her own advantage. Greece and 
Serbia probably considered that Bulgaria, by her insist- 
ence about Adrianople, had prolonged the war, from their 
point of view, unnecessarily. The racial animosities that 
had been suspended in order to combine against Turkey 
reasserted themselves when the Turks were no longer to 
be feared in Europe. Roumania took advantage of the 
opportunity to intervene against Bulgaria. In the sum- 
mer of 1913 there was a second Balkan War, of which 
Bulgaria was the victim. The Turks retook Adrianople, 
and the war ended in the Treaty of Bucharest. By this 
Greece, Serbia, and Roumania were left with all the 
spoils of victory. Bulgaria, whose army had been so 
effective and essential to the defeat of the Turks, was 
allowed no access to the sea. Roumania got some terri- 
tory that had belonged to Bulgaria, and Greece and Serbia 
got territory and ports that had been hitherto looked upon 
as legitimate objects of Bulgarian aspiration if Turkey 
were driven out of Macedonia. 

The Great Powers saw no reason to intervene, except 
to satisfy Austria and Italy about Albania and to make 
sure that the gains of the Balkan Allies were not pushed 
to a point that would raise the question of the future of 
Constantinople ; for the rest, they were not prepared to go 
beyond mediation, wherever this might be useful; and 
they sat still while the Treaty of Bucharest was signed. 
This treaty had in it the seeds of inevitable future trouble. 



It left Bulgaria sore, injured, and despoiled and deprived 
of what she believed should belong to her. Any future 
Balkan peace was impossible as long as the Treaty of 
Bucharest remained. Turkey, of course, was also sore 
and despoiled. Thus when the Great War came, a year 
later, there were two Powers, Bulgaria and Turkey, 
hungering for a revanche and ready to take whichever 
side would give them a prospect of obtaining it. This 
naturally was the side of Austria and Germany : for Serbia 
was at war with Austria, while Greece and Roumania 
were sympathetic to Serbia or to the Western Powers. 

The settlement after the second Balkan War was not 
one of justice but of force. It stored up inevitable trouble 
for the time to come. To make peace secure for the 
future, it would have been necessary for the Great Powers 
to have intervened to make the settlement of Bucharest a 
just one. This they did not do. They dared not do it, 
being too afraid of trouble between themselves. They 
were afraid to move lest they should come in contact with 
each other, and yet their very care to prevent falling out 
among themselves in 1913 was, in fact, going to render 
peace more precarious in the year that followed. 

The victory of the Balkan Allies over Turkey opened 
the Balkan Question, and the risk of consequent trouble 
between the Great Powers most concerned became appre- 
ciable. Constantinople itself was not in question; the 
Great Powers were agreed that Constantinople must be 
left in possession of the Turks; they were united in not 
raising that question between themselves and in agreeing 
that they would not let it be raised by the victorious 
Balkan Allies. The latter showed no disposition to raise 
it in their peace discussions with Turkey. Their gains 
were so enormous as to be sufficient to content them with- 


out Constantinople. The Balkan War, therefore, did not 
endanger European peace by throwing open the question 
of Constantinople and the Straits ; nor were Austria and 
Russia, the two Great Powers most directly concerned, 
disposed to take an active part or to play rival hands in 
influencing the terms that Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia 
might impose on Turkey as regards Macedonia. The 
point of friction and danger was Albania. Turkish rule 
in Albania was smashed by the war; the Balkan Allies 
were flushed with victory; Serbia wanted access to the 
Adriatic on commercial grounds, and she and Montenegro 
might regard portions of Albania as part of the prize and 
spoil of war. 

Austria was determined that if Albania ceased to be 
Turkish territory it should not pass into the hands and 
form part of the aggrandizement of Serbia. Serbia, 
borne on the tide of her own victories, might easily reach 
the point of inevitable conflict with Austria. If this 
happened, and if Russia felt that she was required to 
support Serbia, European war was inevitable. To pre- 
pare in advance against this danger, and to avoid catas- 
trophe, I proposed a Conference of the Powers. Ger- 
many and Austria agreed, and Russia was willing; this 
being so, the consent of France and Italy was assured. I 
did not press for London to be the meeting-place; person- 
ally I was inclined to Paris. The French would be 
pleased by the choice of Paris, and the Conference would 
start with that asset of good-will. Also I was not anxious 
to have the great addition to work, already heavy, of 
sitting in the Conference personally. London, however, 
was chosen, and early in December the Conference met. 

There were six of us: Lichnowsky, Mensdorff, and 

Imperiali, the Ambassadors respectively of Germany, 


Austria, and Italy; Cambon and Benckendorff, the 
Ambassadors of France and Russia; and myself for 
Britain. Such responsibility as there was of presiding 
fell to me, but we made the proceedings as informal as 
those of a committee of friends, which in fact we were. 
We met in the afternoons, generally about four o’clock, 
and, with a short adjournment to an adjoining room for 
tea, we continued till six or seven o’clock. The Confer- 
ence did not have its last meeting till August 1913, and 
during all that time we remained in being as a Confer- 
ence though we only met when occasion required. The 
friendly personal relations between us could not prevent 
our proceedings from being protracted and sometimes 
intolerably wearisome. It was said after the first few 
weeks that Cambon, when asked about the progress of 
the Conference, had replied that it would continue till 
there were six skeletons sitting around the table. 

The question of greatest difficulty, and even danger, 
was the determination of the boundary on the north and 
north-east of Albania, where Serbia claimed more than 
Austria was willing to allow. There was an acute crisis 
when Montenegro got hold of Scutari, which Austria 
was determined that Montenegro should not have. Later 
on, Italy was interested in the limits to be set to Greek 
acquisitions of territory on the south side of Albania. 
During a great part of the time first the war and then the 
resulting peace negotiations between the Balkan Allies 
and Turkey were in progress, and these from time to time 
occupied the attention of the Conference. But when 
differences between the Balkan Allies and Turkey were 
discussed the music of the Conference was more subdued 
and less harsh than when we were endeavouring to set the 
tune to which Serbia and Montenegro should keep step 


on the frontiers of Albania. Indeed, at one time there 
was a tendency to busy ourselves with peace negotiations 
between Turkey and the Balkan Allies, when we were 
making no progress with the Albanian question that 
threatened to disturb our own peace. At one such moment 
I said that it would become misleading and undignified 
to continue our sittings unless we could deal with the 
question of the Albanian frontier and make an agreement 
about it. It was almost ridiculous, I urged, for us to be 
attempting to make peace between Turkey and the Allies 
if the question of the Albanian frontier was to remain in 
suspense, causing increasing anxiety and difficulty be- 
tween the Great Powers. That, however, was said in 
February, after the Conference had been in existence for 
some two months and a half. 

The start of the Conference in December was easy. 
The Austrian contention was that Albania must be kept 
as an independent and substantial entity, but Austria was 
willing to let a commercial access to the Adriatic, through 
Albania, be secured to Serbia by international arrange- 
ment. These were the cardinal points and, if they were 
not accepted, there could be no agreement. I had ascer- 
tained that Russia would in principle accept them. At 
our first meeting Mensdorff stated the Austrian contention 
as the basis for discussion. Benckendorff replied at once 
that he accepted it. Mensdorff’s manner gave the impres- 
sion of one who heard news that is almost too good to be 
true. There was a note of interrogation from him; and 
Benckendorff, who had clear instructions, reported the 
Russian acceptance without qualification. The life of the 
Conference was then assured; it was not still-born; but 
the troubles of life were yet before it, and European peace 
would depend upon the settlement of frontier details. 



These have no importance now. The records of the Con- 
ference have been examined for me; I am told that they 
make exceedingly dull and confused reading. I can well 
believe it; even the short analysis made to refresh my 
memory has little interest for a post-war reader. From 
time to time the ship of negotiation stuck on some shoal, 
but it was always, though often after much difficulty, 
floated off and onwards on some little rising tide of oppor- 
tune concession, or on some buoyant formula. The sort 
of difficulty we had to solve was this: Serbia would 

claim for herself something more, something that had 
been part of Turkish Albania; then Austria would object. 
Serbia would say it was by population mainly Serbian; 
Austria would deny the fact; there were villages where 
even experts might differ about racial affinities. We did 
not set much store by territorial merits in these details. 
Our efforts were concentrated on getting something to 
which both Austria and Russia would agree. Russia 
would support Serbia in claiming some village as Serb; 
Austria would contend that it must be Albanian. If the 
Conference could not get an agreement Austria might 
launch an ultimatum, or even take peremptory action 
against Serbia. Then the whole prestige of Austria and 
Russia in the Balkans would be at stake, and so would the 
peace of Europe. The details with which we dealt were 
insignificant — in themselves mere sparks; but we were 
sitting on a powder-magazine. 

One instance shall be recounted as a good illustration 
of the difficulties the Conference had to overcome, and 
also of the spirit in which we worked. It has remained 
fresh in my memory. 

Serbia claimed a village called Djakova. Austria made 
a point of its being kept for Albania. Russia would not 

Photograph by Reginald Haines 

Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in London, 1904-1914 


give way about Serbia’s claim; Austria was stiff and posi- 
tive. There was deadlock. Nothing more could be done 
till either iVIensdorff or Benckendorff could get instruc- 
tions that would ease the situation. The Conference 
ceased to work on the Albanian frontier; the diplomatic 
safety-valve, for to this the Conference might be com- 
pared, was for the time shut down. Days, even a week 
or two I think, passed : we could do nothing, and we knew 
that pressure might be rising all the time. Probably I 
saw Mensdorff and Benckendorff separately, and perhaps 
Lichnowsky too, to explore the possibilities of concession, 
but of this I have no certain recollection. One morning 
a message was brought to me, at my house in London, that 
the Austrian Ambassador wanted to see me on an urgent 
matter; I sent back a message asking him to come to my 
house at once. In a few minutes Mensdorff arrived. 
The room in the house that I occupied then was small; 
on a table in the middle stood daffodils and other spring 
flowers sent to me from Fallodon and placed in tall glasses 
of water. Mensdorff entered briskly, even a little breath- 
less with haste, delighted with the good news he brought 
and exclaiming, “We give up Djakova!” As he bustled 
quickly into the room, his full-skirted frock-coat, swaying 
as it passed the flower-table, brushed the heads of some 
daffodils; the resentful daffodils tilted their glass and 
emptied the water down the skirts of Mensdorff’s coat. 
Some perturbation ensued ; I fetched a towel and swathed 
the coat as best I could. Then we fraternized over 
Djakova. Mensdorff was genuinely pleased to bring the 
news. He wanted peace; he knew that we all wanted 
peace; and the block was removed, and the Conference 
could go on again. 

The Austrians, while agreeing that Djakova should be 



assured to Serbia, stipulated that Serbia should cease hos- 
tilities and evacuate territories assigned to Albania. I at 
once urged strongly at St. Petersburg that Russia should 
accept this condition. Russia did so, and I then prepared 
for immediate collective representations to Serbia and 

This incident was over; the Great Powers were in 
agreement. More trouble remained about other things, 
but by these methods, and in this spirit, we got through. 

Another storm there was about Scutari. The Great 
Powers having decided that, in order to preserve peace 
among themselves, they must take in hand the frontier 
of Albania, we warned Serbia and Montenegro that it 
was of no use for them to continue to fight the Turks in 
that region. Serbia and Montenegro would get without 
further fighting all that Austria, in agreement with the 
other great Powers, was willing to let them have. On 
the other hand, Serbia and Montenegro, however much 
of Albania they conquered, would not be allowed to keep 
more than the Powers were agreed to concede to them. 

For instance, on March xi, 1913, it appears that I told 
the Serbian Charge d’Affaires that the question of Scutari 
would be decided by the Powers; that “for Serbia and 
Montenegro to pursue operations there is so useless that 
it appears to me to be criminal!” The Serbian conten- 
tion was that to discontinue these operations would release 
Turkish troops to fight against Serbia elsewhere. I urged 
that this contention was not applicable to Scutari, and 
the conversation was repeated to the Montenegrin dele- 
gate in London. 

The advice was of no avail. I do not remember that 
any advice of the kind was ever of any use even when it 
represented a consensus of opinion of the Powers and was 


backed by irrefutable arguments. Montenegro continued 
the siege of Scutari, and took the place in April. 

Then Austria demanded that Montenegro should be 
made to evacuate Scutari by international action : if not, 
Austria would act alone, and that might be the beginning 
of trouble that would threaten Europe. None of the 
Powers thought it reasonable to support Montenegro in 
the occupation of a position which Austria considered 
strategically menacing to herself. We had, therefore, no 
difficulty in coming to an agreement in principle in the 
Conference; but the various methods to be employed to 
induce Montenegro to evacuate Scutari gave rise to 
tedious discussions. At one extreme was the suggestion 
to land troops and to compel the evacuation ; at the other 
was a proposal to give Montenegro money compensation 
— in other words, to bribe the ruling authority to leave 
the place. We ourselves would not co-operate in the use 
of troops, but were ready to join in a naval demonstration. 
Eventually a blend of the threat of coercion and the offer 
of money compensation settled the matter to the satisfac- 
tion of Austria, perhaps also to the satisfaction of the 
King of Montenegro, and this danger to European peace 
was laid to rest. 

It is needless to describe questions that arose about the 
southern frontier of Albania. My own part was mainly 
to discover whether we might ease the general situation 
and facilitate peace in the Near East by restoring to 
Turkey certain iEgean Islands. Italy held these islands 
as a pledge for the fulfilment by Turkey of the terms of 
peace arranged after the Turco-Italian War about 
Tripoli. The Italian Ambassador told us that no Italian 
Government could stand if these islands were evacuated 
while the terms of the Turko-Italian Treaty were unful- 



filled. The following extract gives my comment on 
treaties with Turkey: 

I observed that if the fulfilment of a treaty by Turkey was the con- 
dition for the continuance of the occupation, as Turkey never fulfilled 
a treaty entirely, occupation might be indefinitely prolonged. Indeed, 
I said subsequently to the Austrian Ambassador alone, that, to make a 
thing dependent upon the fulfilment of a treaty by Turkey, though it 
was not exactly equivalent to a freehold, might almost be regarded as 
equivalent to a 999 years’ lease. 

This was at the end of July. On August 1, I seem to 
have said that certain changes in the situation, notably 
the occupation of Adrianople by the Turks, would justify 
the Powers in reserving their decision about the islands. 
The Russian Ambassador “seemed to think the idea of 
using the islands as a lever to get the Turks out of Adrian- 
ople not unattractive.” 

After August 1913 the Conference did not meet again. 
There was no formal finish ; we were not photographed 
in a group; we had no votes of thanks; no valedictory 
speeches; we just left off meeting. We had not settled 
anything, not even all the details of Albanian boundaries; 
but we had served a useful purpose. We had been some- 
thing to which point after point could be referred; we 
had been a means of keeping all the six Powers in direct 
and friendly touch. The mere fact that we were in exist- 
ence, and that we should have to be broken up before 
peace was broken, was in itself an appreciable barrier 
against war. We were a means of gaining time, and the 
longer we remained in being the more reluctance was 
there for us to disperse. The Governments concerned 
got used to us, and to the habit of making us useful. When 
we ceased to meet, the present danger to the peace of 


Europe was over; the things that we did not settle were 
not threatening that peace; the things that had threatened 
the relations between the Great Powers in 1912-13 we had 
deprived of their dangerous features. 

My own part in this Conference seems very drab and 
humdrum in recollection. British interests were not 
affected by the destiny of Djakova or Scutari, and my part 
was not to initiate or to shape a policy, but to serve as a 
useful and patient mediator between Russia and Austria, 
to be diligent in finding the point of conciliation, and 
burying the point of difference. 

I believe I got the confidence of all the Ambassadors 
in this Conference, for they felt I was not in pursuit of 
triumph or prestige for British diplomacy, and that 
Britain’s one paramount interest in the whole affair was 
that peace should be preserved. If this was done British 
interest was served. We did indeed wish to preserve also 
the Entente with France and Russia; but France did not 
want trouble to come upon her from a Balkan dispute in 
which French interests were not concerned; and Russia, 
though she would not stand a second humiliation like that 
of the Bosnia-Herzegovina dispute, was conciliatory and 
anxious only to maintain her position in the Balkans with- 
out striving to increase it at the expense of Austria. Ger- 
many had evidently determined, after the Agadir business 
of 1911, that she did not want trouble again so soon, and 
this no doubt influenced Austrian policy to be moderate. 
The role of mediator was therefore consistent with the 
maintenance of the Entente. If a concession was made by 
Russia or by Austria, it was never exploited as a diplo- 
matic “score” or used like a victory to press a further 
advance. On the contrary, if a concession was made, as 
by Austria in the case of Djakova, it was used as a reason 



for urging moderation and concession on the other side. 
To this end the Conference worked as quietly as it could; 
the Press was never exploited or inspired in the interest 
of any individual or Government. Had this been done, 
it would have been fatal to our work. An atmosphere of 
reticence, even to the point of dullness, is favourable, pro- 
vided there be at work good faith and a living desire to 
keep the peace. Sensation and eclat produce the atmos- 
phere that is favourable to storms. To avoid creating 
that atmosphere will be the great difficulty of “open” 
diplomacy, if by that phrase is meant daily publicity. 

The wisdom and experience of Cambon were very help- 
ful in our discussions, but his role was not an active one. 
France as an Ally felt bound to support Russia; but she 
followed, and did not wish to lead. Cambon’s help in 
drafting was invaluable, and he sat through all our pro- 
ceedings and took part in the drudgery of drafting with- 
out a sigh of impatience; but I felt that he was not alto- 
gether satisfied with my conduct. My impression was 
that he feared that Russia might again suffer in prestige 
and that this might react unfavourably upon the Franco- 
Russian Alliance and the Entente with us. To guard 
against this he would have liked a little less neutrality, 
even a little more partisanship, in my attitude. He may 
also have thought me somewhat wooden and wanting 
in resource to make the Conference move when it stuck 
on some trivial difficulty. Certainly I have the impres- 
sion that he was critical, but the grounds for this are 
mere surmise; he never expressed them. 

Benckendorff I felt to be entirely approving. He 
showed no apprehension that Russian prestige would suf- 
fer from the way things were going, and seemed to be 
content with the line I took, to understand that it was 



taken solely to get fair terms and to secure peace, not 
at all from indifference to Anglo-Russian friendship or in 
order to effect a British rapprochement with Germany 
and Austria at the expense of Russia and France. The 
spirit in which Mensdorff worked has been described 
above. Both he and Benckendorff had to carry out the 
instructions of their Governments and did so faithfully 
and, when necessary, firmly; but they worked for agree- 
ment, and were delighted when they could help towards 

In the most acute matters, such as Scutari, Italy was 
concerned as a Member of the Triple Alliance. She was 
therefore on Austria’s side; but Austria’s fears for her 
position in the Adriatic did not touch Italy’s heart. Italy 
did not feel called upon, to put it mildly, to be more 
Austrian than Austria in dealing with Montenegro. Ex- 
cept, therefore, when Italy’s interest in Southern Al- 
bania or in the islands was touched upon towards the end 
of the Conference, Imperiali, the Italian Ambassador, 
had not to take a leading part. But Imperiali had a 
natural disposition to friendship and good-will that was 
both pleasant and helpful, and this he never failed to 

Very important was the attitude of Germany. I be- 
lieve that from the beginning Germany intended the 
Conference to succeed ; otherwise she would not have 
agreed to it at all. She was not prepared to hustle 
Austria, and often she allowed things to drag. But Ger- 
many was determined that war should be avoided, and 
for this purpose she had a whole-hearted representative 
and agent in Lichnowsky. He hated the notion of war, 
and, Russia having at the outset conceded fairly the 
principle of an independent Albania, Lichnowsky made 



it evident that he considered the details in dispute not 
worth a European war. His official role was to sup- 
port Austria, but he would sometimes show contempt for 
the importance attached to, and the time spent upon, the 
allocation of some village on the Albanian frontier. 

It did not occur to any of us to suggest that we should 
be kept in existence as a Conference, as a body ready to 
be called together at any moment, to which future Balkan, 
or indeed any troubles between the Great Powers, might 
be referred. We could not have suggested this officially 
ourselves: it was not for us as a body to magnify our 
own importance. Still less could the British Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs have proposed that there should 
be a permanent body in London, with himself as Presi- 
dent, to settle continental troubles. Such a proposal 
would have been resented as giving Britain an undue pre- 
dominance and advantage : the very fact that London had 
been accepted as the place for this Conference would have 
been a reason why some other capital should have had 
its turn for the next one. So far as I know, the good faith, 
the good-will, the single-mindedness, the freedom from 
all egotism and personal rivalries that had been char- 
acteristic of this Conference, of all its members individ- 
ually and collectively, made no impression, or none but 
a passing impression, upon the Governments in Europe. 
These qualities were of little value before the war, not 
because they did not exist, but because hardly anybody 
believed in their existence. 

The members of the Ambassadors’ Conference of 1912- 
13 were all alive, available, and at their posts in 1914; 
but no one in Berlin or Vienna seems to have remem- 
bered the past or found in the recollection of 1912- 13 
any hope for the future. So, when the crisis came in 


1914, although the suggestion of settling by the same 
machinery as in 1912 was made, it was dismissed per- 
emptorily by Germany and Austria. Had there been 
two men, one in Vienna and one in St. Petersburg, wise 
enough to foresee their perils, one great enough to pro- 
pose and the other great enough to accept the suggestion 
of making the London Conference, or something like it, 
a permanent machine, future Balkan disputes might have 
been settled with increasing ease. But there were no such 
statesmen in St. Petersburg or Vienna. Austria was fas- 
cinated by the strength of the German Army and felt 
secure, and Russia and France were preoccupied by fear 
of it. In 1912-13 the current of European affairs was 
setting towards war. Austria and Russia were drifting 
with it, and dragging the other Powers in the same fatal 
direction. In agreeing to a Conference, and forming one 
in 1912, it was as if we all put out anchors to prevent 
ourselves from being swept away. The anchors held. 
Then the current seemed to slacken and the anchors were 
pulled up. The Conference was allowed to dissolve. We 
seemed to be safe. In reality it was not so; the set of the 
current was the same, and in a year’s time we were all 
swept into the cataract of war. 



King George’s Visit to Paris — A Reminiscence of the Review — A Re- 
quest from the French — Naval Conversations with Russia — Rea- 
sons for Consenting — The French Motive and the Russian — 
Questions in Parliament and the Answer — Explanatory Despatches 
— Sazonof’s Visit to Balmoral — Bethmann-Hollweg’s Allegation 
and the Facts — An Unwarranted Suggestion — The European Sit- 
uation in June 1914 — Failure of Proposals to Abate Armaments — 
Germany and the “Naval Holiday’’ — An Apparently Improving 
Situation — A Conversation with Lichnowsky — Opinion in France, 
Germany, and Russia. 

I N April 1914 the King paid a ceremonial state visit 
to Paris. It was customary for Sovereigns, in the 
years after their accession, to take opportunities of 
paying these visits to other Sovereigns and heads of States 
in European capitals. Human nature seems everywhere 
and in all races to have created and to observe rules of 
etiquette. Every class has them. They are generally up- 
held, and the observance of them seems to give mutual 
satisfaction. Few people affirm that they enjoy them, but 
the neglect or breach of them is resented, though they 
take up much time that might otherwise be given to work 
or pleasure. 

King George had not yet paid any of these complimen- 
tary visits. The year 1911 had been taken up with his 
Coronation; 1912 and 1913 had been overshadowed by 
the trouble that threatened war between Austria and 



Serbia, and the condition of European politics had not 
been suitable for planning State visits. These must be 
arranged some weeks or even months in advance, and if, 
when the date fixed for one of them approaches, a crisis 
has arisen in Foreign Affairs the visit adds an incon- 
venient complication. It may be inopportune and in- 
convenient to the two Governments concerned, who may 
at the time be preoccupied with difficult or dangerous 
points of policy; or it may add to the suspicions of other 
Governments. Yet to cancel the visit may emphasize the 
danger of the crisis and make it seem worse than it really 
is. So it is necessary to study the international weather- 
chart very carefully, and to make the most accurate fore- 
cast possible for some time ahead. In the early months 
of 1914 the international sky seemed clearer than it had 
been. The Balkan clouds had disappeared. After the 
threatening periods of 1911, 1912, and 1913 a little calm 
was probable, and, it would seem, due. Surely after so 
much disturbance there would be a general wish to en- 
joy the finer weather. There seemed to be no reason why 
King George should not, in 1914, begin the practice of 
complimentary visits that had been observed by King 
Edward and other contemporary or preceding Sovereigns. 

France was Britain’s nearest neighbour; she was also 
the country with which our relations had become most 
cordial and intimate. The French wished for the visit. 
To make the first visit to France seemed as natural as to 
make it elsewhere would have been questionable. So in 
April 1914 the King went to Paris, and this time, as 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I went in attendance. All 
the circumstances of the visit were auspicious. The 
weather was such as April alone can give, and of which 
she gives so little. It was bright without being hot, the 



glorious brightness of summer combined with the fresh- 
ness of spring. The horse-chestnuts in Paris were in 
flower; the foliage was a tender green. The cold months 
were over, and all things growing were opening to the 
early warmth. Men, women, and children were out of 
doors to enjoy it. 

A Review was held at Vincennes in honour of the King. 
We drove slowly in State procession through the streets, 
which were lined with crowds of spectators. All the 
people seemed happy, and at ease. There was not one 
Chauvinist cry. The reception was most friendly, but 
there was nothing that gave it the character of a bellicose 
gesture or defiant demonstration. 

A review is indeed a display of arms, but a review of 
troops on occasions such as this is too usual an affair to 
be warlike; the firing of the guns is scarcely more sug- 
gestive of war than it is on the occasion of a royal birth- 
day. It is external, and intended to be ornamental; it 
strikes the ears but does not touch the spirit. 

What did touch my spirit was the study of the two 
French cavalry soldiers, who rode beside the carriage, in 
which was my place in the procession. The King and the 
President (M. Poincare) were in the first; in one of the 
carriages behind I was seated by the Premier, M. Dou- 
mergue. Cavalry rode in line on each side of the pro- 
cession. We went slowly; the same two cavalry soldiers 
rode close beside me all the way out and all the way 
back. They were of two very different and opposite 
types. One was of swarthy complexion, with dark brown 
hair, a snub nose, and stolid expression; thick-set, sturdy 
body; a typical son of the soil; a fellow to break up the 
clods of stiff land, to sow, to reap, to harvest, to do all 
manner of work on the land; one who would carry on 

Photograph by the James Press Agency 

Russian Ambassador in London, 1903-1917 



through all changes of weather unaffected in body, un- 
moved in spirit, the very man to “stub the oxmoor,” with 
whom readers of Tristram Shandy are familiar. The 
other was fair, slender, almost frail in body; a sensitive 
face, suggesting a possible artist or poet; perhaps rather 
a dilettante. His helmet sat uneasily upon him, and every 
now and then he jerked his head, to keep it in place. 

Each was doing, the dark one doggedly, the fair one 
somewhat listlessly, the duty imposed upon him by con- 
scription. Each must be trained to kill or be killed, in 
defence of his country. Conscription was the burden laid 
upon France by the danger of war, by the lessons of his- 
tory, and by present conditions. Each of these two young 
men, at the age when life should be developing in dif- 
ferent ways, according to talent and temperament, was 
bearing his individual share of this common burden. 

It brought home to me, as I had never felt it before, 
what conscription meant. I thought of what it was in 
the affairs of mankind that made conscription necessary; 
how unnatural it was that all this should be accepted and 
taken as a matter of course. The thought stirred in me 
restlessly but aimlessly, like something ill at ease and yet 
not seeking ease, for was not conscription accepted gen- 
erally on the Continent, and was it not futile to expect 
there would be any change? We, at any rate, with our 
small army and with no conscription ourselves, could not 
bring about a change in continental armies and military 
systems. These great armies and alliances and counter- 
alliances had come into being independently of us and of 
British policy. We could not influence them. 

And yet, what an injury it was that in great nations 
young men in the prime of their youth should be taken 
'from their homes, from useful, productive or congenial 



occupations for which they were fit, and for three years 
trained to something for which they were not either by 
talent or temperament disposed! Surely relations be- 
tween civilized nations that made such a system necessary 
were contrary to all good sense and reason. 

And these crowds of people enjoying the fine April 
day, why should they wish to disturb the peace that made 
enjoyment possible? And why should anyone wish to 
disturb them? Such reflections I pursued in the long, 
slow drive out from Paris and back to it. The French 
Premier did not speak English; my French was soon 
exhausted ; we were each occupied in acknowledging from 
time to time some greeting from the crowd ; and after the 
first few minutes we conversed but little with each other. 

The contrast of that peaceful day, with apparent hap- 
piness and content about us, was often present to me after 
the catastrophe came; and the faces and figures of the 
two cavalry soldiers were clear-cut in memory. Were 
they taken from the cavalry and put into the trenches? 
Were they killed, or are they still alive? There is often 
some quite trivial thing that stands out clear in memory 
for no apparent reason, however momentous or terrible 
are the things with which it is associated. 

All the arrangements for the visit were excellently 
planned and executed by the French. There was noth- 
ing that departed from the ordinary routine of such oc- 
casions. There was a great banquet at which compli- 
mentary speeches were made, carefully prepared to 
emphasize friendship between France and Britain, with- 
out giving offence to anyone else. 

Was this all? Had France and ourselves been con- 
cerned alone it would have been all. The State visit was 
not a long one; the time was nearly all allocated to cere- 


monies; there was little opportunity for serious discussion 
of anything. Serious business between France and Britain 
was transacted by me with Cambon in London, or through 
Bertie in Paris, who were both entirely trusted by each 
Government. No special opportunity was needed for 
discussion, and, if it had been needed, the State visit 
would not have provided one. 

On the last morning, however, I was asked to go to 
the Quai d’Orsay. Bertie and Cambon were present, 
and I think one or two of the staff of the French Foreign 
Office besides myself and the French Minister for For- 
eign Affairs. As far as I recollect it was Cambon who 
mainly conducted the conversation with me, as he was 
used to conversing with me in London. The French said 
that there was nothing in the relations between France 
and Britain of which they felt it necessary or wished at 
that moment to* speak. But there was something they 
wished to ask as regards Russia. Russia knew of the 
conversations between the British and French General 
Staffs, and, in order to make Russia feel that she was not 
kept at arm’s length, it was very desirable that there 
should be something of the same kind with Russia. There 
was no question of our undertaking any obligation what- 
ever; this was not asked. Nor was there any reason for 
the General Staffs of the British and Russian Armies to 
communicate. Geographical separation made it impos- 
sible for British and Russian armies to fight side by side 
in war against Germany, as the British and French armies 
might do. If Britain decided to participate in such a 
war, it would make no difference to the use of her Army, 
whether the British and Russian Staffs had consulted 
together or not. The part to be taken by the British Ex- 
peditionary Force, if it did take part, was settled by 


what had passed between the British and French General 
Staffs. There need be no suggestion of military con- 
versations with Russia. 

There was, however, reason why British and Russian 
naval authorities should have some previous consultation 
as to the parts to be played by the respective fleets in the 
event of Britain taking part in a war. The French did 
not themselves attach great importance to this from the 
point of view of strategy; they did not estimate very 
highly the value of the Russian Fleet in a war against 
Germany. But they did attach great importance to it 
for the purpose of keeping Russia in good disposition, 
and of not offending her by refusing. 

I could see little if any strategic necessity or value in 
the suggestion. To my lay mind it seemed that, in a war 
against Germany, the Russian Fleet would not get out 
of the Baltic and the British Fleet would not get into 
it; but the difficulty of refusing was obvious. To refuse 
would offend Russia by giving the impression that she 
was not treated on equal terms with France; it might 
even give her the impression that, since we first agreed 
to military conversations with France, we had closed our 
minds against participation in a war. To give this im- 
pression might have unsettling consequences, as well as 
being untrue. On the other hand, it was unthinkable that 
we should incur an obligation to Russia which we had 
refused to France. It was as impossible as ever to give 
any pledge that Britain would take part in a continental 
war. The fact that we remained unpledged must be made 
quite clear. On this understanding we agreed to let the 
British and Russian naval authorities communicate, as 
the French asked. I never enquired at the Admiralty 
afterwards, but I imagine that the practical result of the 



consultations between the two naval authorities was not 
great. The Cabinet agreed to the naval authorities com- 
municating on the lines laid down in the letter of No- 
vember 1912 to Cambon, and I was cognizant of the fact 
that such communications did proceed. But neither these 
nor the preceding parallel consultations between British 
and French military or naval authorities ever amounted 
to anything like a convention or political agreement en- 
tailing any obligation on the Governments; and subse- 
quent attempts to make them appear so are directly 
contrary to the express stipulations recorded in the Cam- 
bon-Grey letter. 

What was the motive of the French Government in 
making this request to us? The Russo-British naval con- 
versations were to be further provision for a war with 
Germany. That, of course, is true. Did the French Gov- 
ernment urge them because they thought war with 
Germany was imminent, or because they contemplated 
aggression upon Germany? There was not the slightest 
hint or sign that anything of the sort was in their minds. 
I felt sure at the time that they had no thought of ag- 
gression; I feel sure of it still. The idea of the revanche 
— of retaking Alsace and Lorraine — though not publicly 
disowned, had been tacitly given up. 

In 1914 the French did not desire war with Ger- 
many — they feared it, and every preparation made was 
a precaution against a great peril which they desired 
to avoid, but which they feared might be inevitable. 
Had they, it may be asked, at this moment in April a feel- 
ing that the inevitable might be imminent? 

There was no sign, no word to suggest that this was 
so. In the crisis of 1906 and again in 1911, when they 
had thought war to be possibly imminent, they had 


pressed for some undertaking or promise of help from 
us. We had explained that we could not give it; there 
was no attempt, suggestion, or request made in the visit 
to Paris that we should depart from our position of 
non-committal. There was no word of warning; no ex- 
pectation of a crisis. 

What, then, was their motive? I took it at the time, 
and I believe it now to have been, simply a desire to 
reassure Russia and to keep her loyal. The French 
nervousness about Russia’s loyalty and their alliance was 
very marked at the time of Russo-German negotiations 
about the Baltic. I do not suppose they distrusted 
Sazonof, the Russian Foreign Minister, but there was no 
such thing as a Cabinet policy for Russia. Different 
ministers might be in favour of different policies. Each 
was responsible separately and solely to the Tsar. Every- 
thing depended on the Tsar; he was an honourable and 
conscientious man, but not one of such ability and grasp 
as to be beyond the influence of suggestion or misrepre- 
sentation. The French had told the Russians, some time 
ago, of the Franco-British military conversations. It is 
possible that, to give these an encouraging importance in 
Russian eyes, an impression of some binding effect had 
been allowed to take root and that their political value 
had been thereby magnified. 

Or it may be that the Russians themselves magnified 
the political character of what was done for their own 
purposes without any encouragement thereto from the 
French. That there was undoubtedly a tendency in this 
direction appears from the private letters of Russian 
Ministers and Ambassadors which are printed in de 
Siebert and Schreiner’s Entente Diplomacy and the 
World. In these the military and naval arrangements 


between the British and French or Russian Governments 
are constantly referred to as “conventions.” How the 
military and naval authorities themselves described them 
I do not know, but they never had the character of con- 
ventions or of anything that had a binding effect on any 
of the Governments. But the extent to which the editors 
of this book themselves go in endeavouring to give them 
this interpretation comes out incidentally in their ref- 
erence to a visit of Prince Louis of Battenberg to Paris 
in pursuance of these conversations. In a foot-note they 
explain that Prince Louis was “First Lord of the Ad- 
miralty, but by no means a naval expert, so that the co- 
ordination in question was probably of a political char- 
acter.” 1 This statement is just the opposite of the facts. 
Prince Louis of Battenberg was not First Lord of the 
Admiralty, he was First Sea Lord and Admiral and a 
naval expert; he never held any political post at the 
Admiralty, nor was he employed, so far as I know, in 
any political work. 

It is certain that this new step of Russo-British naval 
conversations was instituted by Russia, who asked the 
French Government to approach us on the subject. The 
French were willing, seeing in the proposal a means of 
enhancing the value of the Franco-Russian Alliance in 
Russian eyes; though they did not think that co-ordina- 
tion of British and Russian Fleets would add much to 
effective naval strategy. In any case, the French could 
not safely refuse the Russian request to put the matter 
before us. The Russians knew of the Franco-British 
naval and military conversations. If France had dis- 
couraged or repulsed the Russian desire to have something 
of the same kind between Russian and British naval au- 

1 Entente Diplomacy and the World, English translation, p, 78 footnote. 


thorities, the consequences might have been untoward and 
even serious. It would have seemed to Russia that 
France was cultivating intimate relations with Britain 
from which Russia was to be excluded. Suspicion would 
have taken root and grown. France would have been 
suspected of a design to strengthen her own position with 
a support that Russia, her Ally, was not to share. It is 
easy to imagine how unfavourably this might have been 
represented to the Press by those in Russia who leant 
towards Germany and away from France. Such are the 
reflections that occur when looking back on what passed 
at the time. 

Anyhow, the Russians asked for it, the French pressed 
it, and we saw no reason to refuse, provided that the whole 
transaction was kept strictly within the limits laid down 
in the Cambon-Grey letter of November 1912. This was 
secured by the communication to the Russians of copies 
of those two letters. 

The thing became known to Germany, and reports of 
it appeared in the Press. The result was that questions 
were put in Parliament. There had previously been ques- 
tions about military arrangements with France, and I was 
now called upon to say if there were naval arrangements 
with Russia. I give the questions and my answer in 
full : — 

Mr. King asked whether any naval agreement has recently been 
entered into between Russia and Great Britain, and whether any 
negotiations, with a view to a naval agreement, have recently taken 
place, or are now pending, between Russia and Great Britain. 

Sir William Byles asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 
whether he can make any statement with regard to an alleged new 
naval agreement between Great Britain and Russia; how far such 
agreement would affect our relations with Germany; and will be lay 


Sir E. Grey: The Hon. Member for North Somerset asked a 
similar question last year with regard to military forces, and the Hon. 
Member for North Salford asked a similar question also on the same 
day as he has again done to-day. The Prime Minister then replied 
that, if war arose between European Powers, there were no unpublished 
agreements which would restrict or hamper the freedom of the Gov- 
ernment, or of Parliament, to decide whether or not Great Britain 
should participate in a war. That answers covers both the questions 
on the paper. It remains as true to-day as it was a year ago. No 
negotiations have since been concluded with any Power that would 
make the statement less true. No such negotiations are in progress, 
and none are likely to be entered upon, as far as I can judge. But, if 
any agreement were to be concluded that made it necessary to withdraw 
or modify the Prime Minister’s statement of last year, which I have 
quoted, it ought, in my opinion, to be, and I suppose that it would be, 
laid before Parliament . 1 

The answer given is absolutely true. The criticism 
to which it is open is, that it does not answer the question 
put to me. That is undeniable. Parliament has an un- 
qualified right to know of any agreements or arrange- 
ments that bind the country to action or restrain its free- 
dom. But it cannot be told of military and naval meas- 
ures to meet possible contingencies. So long as Gov- 
ernments are compelled to contemplate the possibility 
of war, they are under a necessity to take precautionary 
measures, the object of which would be defeated if they 
were made public. This was a necessity in Europe be- 
fore the war, and it will remain a necessity after it, if 
the system of competitive armaments continues. If the 
question had been pressed I must have declined to answer 
it, and have given these reasons for doing so. Questions 
in the previous year about military arrangements with 
France had been put aside by the Prime Minister with a 
similar answer. 

1 House of Commons, June n, 1914. 


Neither the Franco-British military nor the Anglo- 
Russian naval conversations compromised the freedom 
of this country, but the latter were less intimate and 
important than the former. I was therefore quite justified 
in saying that the assurances given by the Prime Minister 
still held good. Nothing had been done that in any way 
weakened them, and this was the assurance that Parlia- 
ment was entitled to have. Political engagements ought 
not to be kept secret; naval or military preparations for 
contingencies of war are necessary, but must be kept 
secret. In these instances care had been taken to ensure 
that such preparations did not involve any political en- 

The record of the two conversations that is printed 
below will show that the Russians were given clearly to 
understand exactly what the nature and scope of the naval 
conversations were to be. Those conversations also show 
that the understanding with France remained exactly the 
same as it had been defined in the letters exchanged with 
Cambon in 1912. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

May 21, 1914. 

Sir, — I told M. Cambon on the 14th instant that the Government 
had considered the question of making some communication to Russia, 
as I had suggested in my conversation with M. Doumergue in Paris 
last month, and I was now prepared to communicate to the Russian 
Government a copy of my letter of November 22, 19*2, to M. Cambon. 
In doing so I would point out to Count Benckendorff that, as he would 
see from the letter, conversations had taken place from time to time 
between the French and British naval and military staffs. With regard 
to conversations between military staffs I would say that, if ever the 
British Army was engaged on the Continent, what force we could spare 
would be allocated to the French frontier, and, therefore, we could 


not enter into any military engagement, even of the most hypothetical 
kind, with Russia. I understood that Russia did not desire a military 
arrangement. But I should suggest that the Russian naval authorities 
should ascertain from our naval authorities what had passed between the 
French and British naval staffs — and I suppose that the Russian 
authorities could also ascertain this from the French naval authorities. 
They would then be able to see what scope there was for any conversa- 
tions between the Russian and British naval staffs. I said that I 
assumed that M. Cambon would communicate to Count Benckendorff 
the letter of November 23, 1912, which he had written to me in reply 
to mine of the 22nd, 1 in the same sense. 

M. Cambon said that he must apply to his Government for definite 
authority to agree to the communication of the letters to Count Bencken- 
dorff. As soon as he had received their consent he would let me know, 
and I could then make to Count Benckendorff the communication that 
I proposed. — I am, etc. 

E. Grey. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie 

Foreign Office, 

May 21, 1914. 

Sir, — M. Cambon and Count Benckendorff came to see me together 
on the 19th inst. 

I observed to Count Benckendorff that, as he knew, M. Doumergue 
had spoken to me in Paris on the subject of relations with Russia. 

I had suggested that we might communicate to the Russian Govern- 
ment exactly how things stood between France and ourselves; and I was 
now authorized by His Majesty’s Government to give Count Bencken- 
dorff a copy of the letter that I had written to M. Cambon on Novem- 
ber 22, 1912. 

M. Cambon at the same time gave Count Benckendorff a copy of 
the letter that he had written to me on November 23, confirming my 
letter of the 22nd. 

I said that Count Benckendorff would see from the letters that the 
French and British Governments were not bound to each other by 
any alliance, and remained free to decide in a crisis whether they would 
assist each other or not, but that there had taken place between the 

1 See supra, pp. 94-95. 



naval and military staffs certain conversations which, should the Gov- 
ernments decide to assist each other in a crisis, would enable them to do 
so. The reason for these conversations had been that, unless some- 
thing of the kind was arranged beforehand, however anxious the two 
Governments might find themselves in a crisis to assist each other, 
they would be unable to do so when the time came. 

I observed to Count Benckendorff that I understood that the Russian 
Government did not wish for conversations between the Russian and 
British military staffs. The conversations that had taken place between 
the French and British military staffs left no room for any other arrange- 
ment, even a conditional one, so far as England was concerned. We 
thought, however, that the Russian Government might be informed of 
what had passed between the French and British naval staffs. They 
would then see what scope there was for conversations between the 
Russian and British naval staffs, and we should be prepared that such 
conversations should take place, on the footing of the letter that I 
had written to M. Cambon and of which I had just given Count 
Benckendorff a copy. 

Count Benckendorff raised some question of whether the conversa- 
tions between the naval staffs should take place in London through the 
Russian naval attache or in St. Petersburg through the British naval 

I said that I assumed that the conversations would be in London 
with the Russian naval attache, but this was a matter to be settled by 
the convenience of the Russian and British Admiralties. 

Count Benckendorff further asked me whether the Russian Govern- 
ment should not be informed of the conversations that had taken place 
between the French and British military staffs. 

M. Cambon said that there was presumably no objection to this. 

I did not see any objection, but I said that, as Russia was the Ally 
of France, presumably there were complete arrangements between their 
military authorities for a casus foederis under the alliance. In Paris, 
of course, the authorities knew these arrangements and also the con- 
versations that had taken place between the French and British military 
staffs. In London, we knew nothing of the military arrangements 
between France and Russia. While it seemed to me quite natural that 
the Russian military authorities should wish to know from the French 
military authorities what military arrangements they had made with 


any country besides Russia, it seemed to me a matter to be dealt with 
by the Russian Government in Paris rather in London. — I am etc., 

E. Grey. 

The incident had its reactions in Germany, as the fol- 
lowing despatch from our Ambassador at Berlin will 

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received June 23) 


June 16, 1914. 

Sir, — Herr von Jagow, who, in view of his forthcoming marriage, 
is leaving Berlin to-day, came to see me yesterday afternoon, and con- 
versed on a variety of subjects connected with the international situa- 
tion. After deploring the unsettled state of French internal politics, and 
touching lightly on what he characterized as the extremely maladroit and 
tactless article on that subject which has appeared in the Russian Press, 
he said that the only thing which had given him real pleasure of late 
days was the declaration you had made in Parliament with regard to the 
rumoured naval understanding between Great Britain and Russia. 
Though he had always been inclined to disbelieve the rumour, he had, 
he admitted, been rather shaken by the categorical and reiterated state- 
ments of the Berliner Tageblatt on this subject, and your declaration 
had come to him as a great relief. He added that, in making its state- 
ments, the Berliner Tageblatt had always pointed out that they were 
sure to receive official denial, and that such denial need not be taken too 
seriously; he, however, had no such ideas, and had so much confidence 
in your loyalty and straightforwardness that his mind was now com- 
pletely at rest. If the rumour had been true he thought the consequences 
would have been most serious. Anglo-German relations would have, of 
course, lost that pleasant cordiality which he was glad to say char- 
acterized them at the present moment, but an even worse result would 
have been that there would at once have been a revival of the armament 
fever in Germany. And rightly so, he said, because Germany, from 
her geographical position, could afford to run no chances. In the case 
of war she would have to face huge Russia and France “practically 
alone,” and if she had to take into account also that the British Fleet 



would be against her, the naval authorities would be perfectly justified 
in appealing to the country to make every sacrifice in order to meet 
that emergency. I said that no one wished to attack Germany. He 
said that he was quite aware, and even confident, that no Government 
wished to do so. But the Russian Government was weak, and at any 
moment Pan-slavism might get the upper hand. Moreover, there 
was no getting over the fact that the great mass of the Russian people 
hated the Germans, and that a war against Germany would be popular. 
As for France, he was sure that M. Poincare was in favour of good 
relations with Germany, but in a democratic country like France foreign 
policy did not stand by itself, but was apt to become an instrument in 
the hands of politicians anxious to obtain votes, and to carry out the 
aims of their own particular party. A war-cry against Germany was, 
for instance, a certain vote-catcher, and it was, he said, used far too 
frequently. He could not help fearing that some day the cry would 
be raised once too often. The frequent change of Ministries was really 
a great misfortune. It was always a source of preoccupation to him 
how long a Ministry with whom he had made arrangements would last, 
and whether arrangements he had made with one Ministry would hold 
good with the next. 

The Russian article to which Herr von Jagow referred appeared in 
the Birshevia Viedomosti. It was reproduced here in the Lokalanzeiger, 
under the heading, ‘‘Russia is ready; France must also be ready.” 

In commenting upon it the Lokalanzeiger merely said that the clos- 
ing words of the article to the effect that neither Russia nor France 
desired war, but that Russia was ready, and expected France to be the 
same, a result which she could only achieve by the three years’ service 
system, showed clearly that Russia’s colossal military preparations had 
been begun two years ago at the direct instance of France. — I have, etc., 

yV. E. Goschen. 

I must leave the reader to decide whether von Jagow 
was in fact misled by my answer in the House of Com- 
mons, or whether he was taking advantage of it to im- 
prove the occasion in a diplomatic way. To me it seems 
probable that he knew pretty well what the real state of 
our relations to the Franco-Russian Alliance were. Di- 


rect consultation had now been going on between the 
British and French General Staffs for more than eight 
years. German intelligence agencies, especially the mili- 
tary, must have become well aware that the relations be- 
tween the two staffs were intimate. The disposition of 
the British and French naval forces — the latter being in 
the Mediterranean, leaving all the north coast of France 
exposed to the German Fleet — was evidence that there 
was some arrangement between British and French naval 
authorities. There must have been frequent speculation 
at Berlin as to whether we were committed to an alliance; 
whether, in the event of war with France and Russia, 
England was certainly to be reckoned with. This must 
have been to Germany a preoccupation and anxiety, and it 
was from this point of view that von Jagow would nat- 
urally have studied my statement most carefully. If so, 
his relief was genuine, and it was justified, for, if Ger- 
many had not invaded Belgium, she would not have had 
to reckon with Britain, at any rate not at the outset of 
war, as will be shown in due place. 

But if von Jagow was relieved that we had not under- 
taken obligations to France and Russia, the more would 
he have been anxious that Great Britain should not com- 
mit herself to action by turning the Entente into an 
Alliance. If so, the real object of his words to Goschen 
was to warn us against the consequences of such a com- 
mitment and to prevent it. 

This despatch from Goschen is marked in the print at 
the Foreign Office as received there on June 23. Whether 
I had read it or not before I saw the German Ambassador 
on June 24 I cannot remember; but, at any rate, on that 
date I gave the Ambassador a warning that my reply in 
the House of Commons must be taken as meaning just 



what it said, and that it did not preclude some intimacy 
on our part with France and Russia that was like that of 
Allies. This conversation with Lichnowsky will be given 
in full a few pages further on, as it was not confined to 
this one point. 

A much more serious matter than questions in Parlia- 
ment was the fact that copies of some (apparently) private 
letters of Russians about these naval conversations — let- 
ters of which we knew nothing at the time — reached the 
German Government. As has already been observed, 
these letters gave the affair a political importance that 
it did not in fact possess. Germany may thereby have 
been led to think that British relations with France and 
Russia had an aggressive character, and that the affair 
had an importance that neither we nor the French ever 
attached to it. It is possible that these letters were in von 
Jagow’s mind when he spoke to Goschen. Whether it 
would have been possible, and, if so, whether it would 
have been desirable to dispel suspicion, by making it 
publicly known that military and naval authorities of the 
Entente had consulted together, will be dealt with later 
on in a chapter discussing what more could conceivably 
have been done to avoid war, and whether anything con- 
ceivable would have avoided it. 

This is perhaps the most suitable place in which to 
deal with the statement that during Sazonof’s visit to 
Balmoral in 1912 I made a promise to Russia going far 
beyond anything promised to France in communications 
with the French Government. The suggestion that we 
should have been more forthcoming to Russia than to 
France is in itself unreasonable, but the following quo- 
tation from a statement made by Bethmann-Hollweg 
requires some notice: 

rivate Secretary to Lord Grey, 1907-1915, and now Permanent 
Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs 



Statement of Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg to the First 
Sub-committee of the German Parliamentary Committee 
of Enquiry, March, 1920. 1 

In the fall of the year 1912, Russia, urged by France, gave Eng- 
land official notice of the compact between Serbia and Bulgaria and of 
her co-operation. It is not understood that England raised any objec- 
tion to the tenor or object of this agreement. On the other hand, it 
was just about this time that that episode took place at Balmoral Castle 
in which Sazonof informed the Tsar in the words “Grey declared with- 
out flinching that if the occurrences in question [i.e. the European War] 
should take place, England would make every effort to deal German 
power the most decided blow.” ... It is worth laying stress on the 
fact that England held out the prospect of her taking part in the war 
against Germany without any regard as to who might be responsible 
for the war. 

It is natural that Bethmann-Hollweg should have made 
this comment on the statement attributed to Sazonof in his 
report to the Tsar, but if that report were made without 
giving the Tsar clearly to understand that Britain could 
make no promise and come under no obligation, it was 
in effect an untrue report. 

The record of our conversation which I made at the 
time is quite clear on this point, and I give it exactly 
as it was written : 

Balmoral Castle,, 

September 24, 1912. 

M. Sazonof asked me what our Fleet would do to help and protect 
Russia if by her alliance with France she was involved in war with 
Germany. It was understood by Russia that France would keep ships 
based in Bizerta to prevent the Austrian and Turkish ships operating 
against Russia, but all that Russia could hope to do with her Baltic 
fleet when ready was to close the Gulf of Finland, and some of her 
towns must be left exposed. 

1 Official German Documents relating to the World-war, Carnegie Endow- 
ment Translation, vol. i, p. 18. 



I said that the question of the use to be made of our Fleet if we 
were at war was rather one for naval experts. I doubted our sending 
ships into the Baltic unless we were sure of the control of the entrance, 
and this, if Germany could overrun Denmark, it might be difficult to 
ensure. But of course our Fleet (if it could not get the German Fleet 
to come out and fight, which was what we should like) would shut up 
and blockade the German North Sea coast, and would, if we went to 
war, do all it could against Germany and to help whoever was at 
war with Germany. Our superiority over the German Fleet, which 
we should maintain at all costs, would in this event set the French 
Fleet entirely free for the Mediterranean. 

The question of whether we went to war would depend upon how 
the war came about. No British Government could go to war unless 
backed by public opinion. Public opinion would not support any 
aggressive war for a revanche , or to hem Germany in, and we desired 
to see difficulties between Germany and other Powers, particularly 
France, smoothed over when they arose. If, however, Germany was led 
by her great, I might say, unprecedented strength, to attempt to crush 
France, I did not think we should stand by and look on, but should 
do all we could to prevent France from being crushed. That had been 
our feeling at the time of the Algeciras Conference in 1906 and again 
last year. 

Germany had shown a desire for some agreement with us to ensure 
that we should under no circumstances take part against her if she was 
at war. But we had decided to keep our hands free. If Germany 
dominated the policy of the Continent it would be disagreeable to us 
as well as to others, for we should be isolated. 

E. G. 

Sazonof stayed at Balmoral for some two days. Ac- 
cording to my recollection the main subject of our dis- 
cussion was Persia ; a definite time was set apart for long 
discussion of that wearisome subject. But, besides, we 
met frequently and talked informally, as guests on a coun- 
try visit must do; and I have a very distinct recollection 
of what must have been the foundation of Sazonof’s 
report. From time to time in those years from 1905-14 


I was sounded as to how far Britain could be committed, 
or I was pressed to make some promise. When ques- 
tions were asked formally or officially a record was made 
and the most important of these records are printed in 
these volumes. The subject, however, was liable to crop 
up anywhere or at any time, and I remember very well 
being asked whether, supposing Britain did go to war 
with Germany, we should restrict action to the use of 
our Fleet. I remember being asked the question and 
being irritated, not only by its hypothetical character, but 
because it seemed unnecessary and unreasonable. I re- 
plied with some impatience that of course if Britain 
decided to enter into a war against Germany she would 
use fleet, army, men, money, and every resource she had. 
That this would be so if we were in any great war should 
have been obvious to anyone. 

To construe these words as a declaration of an inten- 
tion to go to war with Germany, and still more as an 
obligation to do so, would have been unpardonable. 
Sazonof never for a moment understood it in this sense; 
neither he nor Benckendorff nor anyone ever suggested 
such a construction to me afterwards, or referred again to 
what I had said, and when the 1912 letter to Cambon was 
given to the Russians in 1914 as defining British atti- 
tude, it was accepted without the faintest suggestion or 
hint that I had ever said anything that went beyond the 
terms or the spirit of that letter. 

It may be convenient to sum up here the situation 
in Europe as it appeared to me in 19*4 before the great 
crisis came upon us. No progress was being made 
towards reduction, or even towards arrest of competition 
in armaments. Churchill’s proposal for a “naval holi- 
day, though made in all good faith and good-will on 


our side, had met with no response. It is told in the 
Life of Campbell-Bannerman how his earlier suggestion 
for arresting the growth of armaments had been regarded 
in Germany almost as a threatening ultimatum. “I speak 
unto them of peace,” Campbell-Bannerman might well 
have said, “and they make themselves ready for battle.” 
The proposal for a naval holiday was not welcomed in 
Germany; if it was not regarded as an unfriendly act, 
it was far from being regarded as a friendly one. It 
was hard to understand then why such proposals were 
so unfavourably received. We did not credit Germany 
with really entertaining a policy of fleet superiority to 
Britain, and, unless this was her policy, surely a cessation 
of naval competition, an arrest of the growing burden 
of naval expenditure, was to the advantage of Germany 
as well as of ourselves. We were surprised that she could 
not see this, we simply could not understand why the pro- 
posal should make people in Berlin angry. 

It is easier to understand it now that the publication 
of contemporary documents from the German Foreign 
Office has shown the extraordinary suspicion with which 
the most innocently well-meant proposals of Lord Salis- 
bury about Turkey were regarded by German Ministers 
and officials in 1895-6. We did not realize then how 
inveterate and deep-rooted at Berlin was the habit of 
attributing a sinister and concerted motive to any pro- 
posal from another Government. Nor was it understood, 
as it should be now, how certainly competition in arma- 
ments leads to war. If we had understood that, we might 
have regarded Germany’s refusal of a naval holiday with 
more anxiety; if Germany had understood that, she might 
not have repelled so curtly our proposals to arrest naval 
expenditure. Unless, indeed, her authorities had already 



made up their minds that war was to come and were 
premeditating it, a belief for which there was some evi- 
dence later. On this I will only say here that the refusal 
of a naval holiday does not go to prove that Germany 
had at that time determined on war. To have agreed 
to suspend naval shipbuilding for 1914 would not have 
diminished her naval strength in August of that year, or 
have impaired her preparations and readiness for war. 
To have accepted the naval holiday would have allayed 
anxiety and would have made us less likely to make prep- 
arations for war, while it would not have slackened or 
affected her own as far as 1914 was concerned. That 
some, at any rate, of the military element in Germany 
considered early in 1914 that the time to strike had come 
is probably true; but the refusal of a naval holiday does 
not in itself point to there being a co-ordinated and settled 
purpose for war in 1914. 

At any rate, the failure to arrest expenditure in arma- 
ments was but a negative feature, and there was nothing 
new about it. Europe had grown used to such expendi- 
ture, and to failures to arrest its growth. There seemed 
no reason to suppose that it would cause a crisis this year 
any more than it had done in previous years. 

Some new troubles there had been early in the year, 
such as the friction between Germany and Russia about 
the military command at Constantinople; there was also 
trouble between Turkey and Greece. But we had come 
through worse crises than these: the Algeciras Confer- 
ence in 1906, the Turkish Revolution with its temporary 
upset of German policy in Constantinople, the Bosnia- 
Herzegovina crisis in 1909, Agadir in 1911, and, last, 
the most dangerous and difficult of all, the complications 
resulting from the Balkan War of 1913. European peace 



had weathered worse storms than any that now were 
visible above the horizon. I had been more than eight 
years at the Foreign Office, in the centre of all the trou- 
bles ; it was natural to hope, even to expect, that the same 
methods which had preserved peace hitherto, when it 
had been threatened, would preserve it still. 

Something else there was, too, that may have, uncon- 
sciously or sub-consciously, affected my outlook. Each 
time that there had seemed to be danger of war I had 
been more and more impressed with the feeling of the 
unprecedented catastrophe that a war between the Great 
Powers of Europe must be under modern conditions. 
So impressed with this was I that it seemed impossible 
that the rulers and ministers of other countries should 
not be impressed with it too. Was it not this that had, 
in the difficult years from 1905 till now, made the Great 
Powers recoil from pressing anything to the point of 

Our own relations with France and Russia made it 
certain that they would not enter upon an aggressive 
or dangerous policy. ^Ve had, indeed, made preparations 
for the contingency of German aggression ; but, even in 
that event, we were free and uncommitted. They might 
hope for our help, but they knew that any aggressive 
policy on their part would destroy that hope. 

The peril of German aggression was possible, but 
seemed less likely than in 1905 an< ^ I 9 11- Germany 
showed no sign of attempting again to break or test the 
strength of the Franco-British Entente. We had shown 
our readiness to meet her over the Bagdad Railway, and 
(as far as we could honourably do so) in the matter of 
the Portuguese Colonies; and an agreement on those 
subjects had practically been completed in the early 


months of 1914. 1 In spite of the rebuff about the naval 
holiday, relations with Germany seemed to be really im- 
proved. Such feelings found expression in the following 
conversation with the German Ambassador reported in a 
despatch to Sir Edward Goschen : 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen 

Foreign Office, 

June 24, 1914. 

Sir, — I saw the German Ambassador to-day, before he went for 
ten days or so to Germany. 

He spoke at some length about my reply in the House of Com- 
mons the other day, referring evidently to the reply I had given to a 
question about an alleged new naval agreement with Russia, though 
the Ambassador did not mention such an agreement by name. He suid 
that the statement that I had made had given great satisfaction in 
Berlin, and had had a reassuring effect. There was anxiety in Ger- 
many about the warlike intentions of Russia. The Ambassador him- 
self did not share this anxiety, as he did not believe in the hostile in- 
tentions of Russia. But there had been an article in the Novoe Vremya 
lately very hostile in tone to Germany. The Pan-Germanic element 
was really apprehensive, and, though Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg 
did not share these views any more than Prince Lichnowsky himself, 
he did feel that there was danger of a new armaments scare growing 
up in Germany. Herr van Bethmann-Hollweg had instructed Prince 
Lichnowsky to tell me that he hoped, if new developments or emergencies 
arose in the Balkans, that they would be discussed as frankly between 
Germany and ourselves as the difficulties that arose during the last 
Balkan crisis, and that we should be able to keep in as close touch. 

I felt that the combination of the secret agreement with Germany about 
Portuguese colonies with our alliance with Portugal had from the first placed 
the British Government in an ambiguous position. I therefore told the German 
Ambassador that we had assured the Portuguese Government that the Anglo- 
Portuguese Alliance was regarded as still in force; and, to make everything 
plain, I proposed that this assurance to Portugal should be published as well as 
the revised form of the agreement with Germany about Portuguese Colonies. 
The latter had been initialled, but I was not prepared to sign it, unless it was 
to be published. The suggestion was not welcome at Berlin, and the revised 
agreement about Portuguese colonies was therefore never completed. This 
agreement was left as I found it on entering office. 


I said to Prince Lichnowsky that I felt some difficulty in talking to 
him about our relations with France and Russia. It was quite easy 
for me to say, and quite true, that there was no alliance, no agreement 
committing us to action, and that all the agreements of that character 
that we had with France and Russia had been published. On the other 
hand, I did not wish to mislead the Ambassador by making him think 
that the relations that we had with France and Russia were less cordial 
and intimate than they really were. Though we were not bound by 
engagement as Allies, we did from time to time talk as intimately as 
Allies. But this intimacy was not used for aggression against Germany. 
France, as he knew, was now most peacefully disposed. 

The Ambassador cordially endorsed this. 

Russia, as he himself had said, was not pursuing an aggressive anti- 
German policy, or thinking of making war on Germany. It was quite 
true that Russia was much interested, and often anxious, concerning 
developments in the Balkan Peninsula; but anti-German feeling was 
not the motive of this anxiety. For instance, when the Emperor of 
Russia had visited Roumania the other day, the Russian Government 
had not talked to us about the visit as a matter of policy, or tried in 
any way to bring us into it as a matter of policy. I most cordially 
reciprocated what Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg had said, that, as 
new developments arose, we should talk as frankly as before, and discuss 
them in the same spirit as we had discussed things during the Balkan 
Crisis. Let us go on as we had left off when that crisis was over. I 
was most anxious not to lose any of the ground that had been gained 
then for good relations between us. The British Government belonged 
to one group of Powers, but did not do so in order to make difficulties 
greater between the two European groups ; on the contrary, we wished 
to prevent any questions that arose from throwing the groups, as such, 
into opposition. In the case, for instance, of the German military com- 
mand in Constantinople, which had caused some anxiety early this year, 
we had done all we could to ensure its being discussed between Ger- 
many and Russia direct, and not made the subject of formal representa- 
tions in Constantinople by one group, and thereby an occasion for 
throwing the two groups, as such, into opposition, and making them 
draw apart. 

Prince Lichnowsky cordially agreed. He said that our being in the 
group we were was a good thing, and he regarded our intimacy with 


France and Russia without any misgiving, because he was sure that it 
was used for peace. 

I said that he was quite justified in this view. We should never 
pursue an aggressive policy, and if ever there was a European war, 
and we took part in it, it would not be on the aggressive side, for public 
opinion was against that. 

Prince Lichnowsky expressed, without qualification, that the view he 
held of our intentions was the same as the one that I had just explained 
to him. 

In conclusion, he spoke again of the apprehension of his Govern- 
ment lest a new armaments scare should grow up in Germany. He 
added that he had frankly told Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg that 
there were certain things that would make friendly relations with us 

I presume that he meant by this an addition to the German Naval 
Law, but I did not press him on the point. 

I said that I realized that our being in one group, and on intimate 
terms with France and Russia, had been used in past years in Ger- 
many to work up feeling for expenditure on armaments, and there 
was always the risk that that might be done again. I sincerely hoped, 
however, that too much importance need not be attached to articles in 
the Novoe Vremya, for, just as he had had to read an article of which 
I had not heard before, an article hostile to Germany, so, as recently 
as last night, I had had to read an article from the Novoe Vremya con- 
taining a violent attack on us in connexion with the Anglo-Persian oil 

In the course of conversation I also said, in order to emphasize 
the point that Russia did not pursue a really anti-German policy, that 
there were three persons through whom we learnt the disposition of the 
Russian Government: one was Count Benckendorf?, who, I was sure, 
Prince Lichnowsky would recognize was not anti-German ; another was 
M. Sazonof, who was sometimes anxious, owing to attacks made on him 
in the Russian Press, as to whether the Triple Entente was not con- 
trasting unfavourably with the Triple Alliance, and proving to be a 
less solid force in diplomacy, but who never showed any indication of 
desiring to use the Triple Entente for aggressive policy against Germany, 
and who used it solely as an equipoise ; the third person was the Emperor 
of Russia, and, as I was sure Prince Lichnowsky would know, he did 



not favour an aggressive policy against Germany, or, indeed, against 
anyone. — I am, etc., 

E. Grey. 

What reflection does the reading of this record sug- 
gest in the light of after-events? I am sure that it faith- 
fully represented both Lichnowsky’s feeling and my own 
at the time, and the description given by me of our rela- 
tions with France and Russia was as frank and explicit 
as it was possible to make it to anyone who did not belong 
to the Entente. The statement about the pacific disposi- 
tion of France was certainly right: her whole conduct 
in 1914, up to the very outbreak of war, proved her 
desire to avoid a conflict. Lichnowsky’s hope and mine 
that if new difficulties arose in the Balkans they would 
be discussed between us as frankly as in the last Balkan 
Crisis, that of 1912-13, was genuine; so, I am ready to 
believe, was that of Bethmann-Hollweg at this time. It 
was not fulfilled. When Lichnowsky came back from 
Berlin after a visit there subsequent to the murder of the 
Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, he was no longer in the con- 
fidence of his Government. He had then nothing to tell 
except that he feared something very strong was prepar- 
ing, and he did not know what it was. It was in fact the 
ultimatum to Serbia. The documents, with their mar- 
ginal notes, revealed by Herr Kautsky, tell how that ulti- 
matum was prepared. Had Lichnowsky continued to be 
the trusted representative of his Government, had they 
dealt frankly with him, and through him with us, after 
the murder of the Archduke, war might have been 

And what about Russia? I know of nothing to alter 
the opinion, expressed in this conversation, about the 



Tsar, Sazonof, and Benckendorff ; but it may fairly be 
thought, in the light of after-knowledge, that more al- 
lowance should have been made for the inherent insta- 
bility in Russian Government; for the possibility that, 
in a moment of great crisis and excitement, the Tsar 
might be rushed into some imprudent act. It needs more 
than good-will to preserve peace in a crisis; it needs 
steadiness and strength. The Tsar was not strong, and 
the Kaiser was not steady, and in each country there was 
a military element. 

The conversation with Lichnowsky took place on June 
24. I am told that, in the classification of documents 
in the Foreign Office, it is the last of those allotted to 
times of peace; those that come after it are in the War 
Series. On June 28, the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was 




The Murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand — Sympathy with 

Austria — An Unproved Assumption — The Ultimatum to Serbia 

Serbian Submission and Austrian Ruthlessness — The Week before 
the War — Four Guiding Thoughts — The Proposal of a Confer- 
ence — The German Veto — Bethmann-Hollweg and the German 
Military Party — The German Bid for British Neutrality — A Dis- 
honouring Proposal — The Inevitable Answer — An Inquiry about 
Belgium — Russian Mobilization — Difference between Russian and 

German Mobilization — The Position of Germany and Austria 

How it seemed at the Time — Opinion in the Cabinet and the 
Country — The Anti-War Party — Interviews with Cambon. 

T HE world will presumably never be told all that 
was behind the murder of the Archduke Francis 
Ferdinand. Probably there is not, and never 
was, any one person who knew all that there was to 
know. An attempt to murder the Archduke was made 
on his way to the ceremony at Serajevo. It failed, and 
he arrived uninjured, but not unnaturally in a state of 
high indignation. On his way from the ceremony another 
attempt was made and resulted in the assassination of him- 
self and his wife. The inference drawn at the time was 
that, if this attempt had failed, there would still have been 
others, and that when the Archduke started for Serajevo 
he was, as far as human calculations and preparations 
could make him so, a doomed man. 

There was more than one quarter in which his succes- 



sion to the great position of his uncle, Francis-Joseph, 
might be supposed to be unwelcome; it has been sur- 
mised that there was more than one plot to remove him, 
emanating from more than one source, each working in- 
dependently of and unknown to the other. But, so far as 
I know, all this is surmise, and the desire to explore the 
dark recesses of the individual tragedy faded away in the 
distress and consternation caused by the world tragedy 
that followed. 

In Austria the popular excitement and indignation 
caused by the crime were intense, and the sympathy of 
the world was with Austria. For the first weeks the 
attitude of the Government in Vienna was neither ex- 
treme nor alarmist. There seemed to be good reason for 
the hope that, while treating the matter as one to be dealt 
with by Austria alone, they would handle it in such a way 
as not to involve Europe in the consequences. When a 
crime of great and dramatic villainy has been committed 
the indignation aroused is not satisfied with spending it- 
self upon the void and the unknown. If the real criminal 
cannot be certainly indicated, popular indignation insists 
that some direction should be indicated in which he is to 
be sought. 

The distrust between Serbia and Austria pointed the 
direction in which to look. Austria regarded Serbia’s 
policy as provocative. Serbia regarded Austrian policy 
as menacing. What more probable than that Serbian 
fanatics had planned this crime on Serbian soil? So 
far, what Austria’s opinion seemed to regard as certain, 
did not, to opinion in disinterested countries, appear to be 
improbable. Sympathy with Austria, my own sympathy 
certainly, was not diminished by this assumption. 

But when it began to be presumed that the Serbian 



Government was itself responsible for the crime, sym- 
pathy paused. That theory did not seem to be probable; 
it was even improbable; a conclusion that could not be 
accepted without evidence. 

At length, but suddenly at the last, came the Austrian 
ultimatum to Serbia: unexpectedly severe; harsher in 
tone and more humiliating in its terms than any com- 
munication of which we had recollection addressed by one 
independent Government to another. 

The Austrian ultimatum was not supported by any evi- 
dence of complicity of the Serbian authorities in the 
murder, and it appeared that both the assassins arrested 
were Austrian subjects. One of them had already been 
regarded as an undesirable by Serbia; but the Serbian 
Government had then been informed by Austria that 
he was harmless and had been warned that he was under 
Austrian protection. All this gave rise to a strong feeling 
that Serbia was being dealt with more harshly than was 
just. Uncomfortable recollections of the Friedjung and 
Agram trials recurred. 

Nevertheless, we urged conciliation on Serbia; the 
peace of Europe was at stake; even if the Austrian de- 
mands on Serbia went beyond what facts, as known 
hitherto, justified, it was better that Serbia should give 
way than that European peace should be broken. We, at 
any rate, could not protect Serbia, and she could not resist 
alone. I believed at the time, and I know of no reason 
to alter that opinion now, that Sazonof genuinely and 
earnestly, and not merely officially and superficially, 
urged a conciliatory reply at Belgrade. The nature of 
that reply confirmed this belief. It was incredible that 
Serbia should have sent such a submissive reply if Rus- 
sian influence had not been in that direction. The Aus- 



trian ultimatum had gone even further than we had 
feared in the way of peremptory severity. The Serbian 
answer went further than we had ventured to hope in 
the way of submission. Yet Austria treated that reply 
as if it made no difference, no amelioration. From that 
moment things went from bad to worse. 

I will now give the account of what passed in the 
week before the war, just as it appeared to me then, 
setting down what I felt and thought at the time. How 
far those feelings or thoughts have been confirmed or 
modified by after events and fuller knowledge will be 
considered in a later chaper. The lack of wisdom, fore- 
sight, or resource of those who have to take a hand in 
great affairs must be judged in the light of after events; 
but if a true judgment is to be formed of the part played 
by any individual, people must know not only what his 
words and acts were, but why he spoke or acted as he 
did; they must stand in the place where he stood, and 
see each incident as it appeared to him at the time. Not 
till they know how things happened can they form a 
just or useful opinion of the causes of them. 

Certain things stand out very clearly in my memory 
of the week before the war. The general suffering and 
the private griefs of the war have left scars in the mem- 
ory of all who experienced them; but the week before 
the war also left marks on those who had responsibility — 
marks indelible, too deep to be obscured even by the 
distress of what followed. 

What was said or done by me will be most clearly 
explained and best understood by stating the considera- 
tions and convictions that were dominant in my mind 
throughout that week. They may be given under four 
heads, stated here just as they presented themselves to me 



at the time. If they are kept steadily in mind when 
reading the published account of the negotiations in the 
week preceding the war they will make the proceedings 
more intelligible. 

1. A conviction that a great European war under mod- 
ern conditions would be a catastrophe for which previous 
wars afforded no precedent. In old days nations could 
collect only portions of their men and resources at a 
time and dribble them out by degrees. Under modern 
conditions whole nations could be mobilized at once and 
their whole life-blood and resources poured out in a tor- 
rent. Instead of a few hundreds of thousands of men 
meeting each other in war, millions would now meet, 
and modern weapons would multiply manifold the power 
of destruction. The financial strain and the expenditure 
of wealth would be incredible. 

I thought this must be obvious to everyone else, as it 
seemed obvious to me; and that, if once it became ap- 
parent that we were on the edge, all the Great Powers 
would call a halt and recoil from the abyss. 

2. That Germany was so immensely strong and Aus- 
tria so dependent upon German strength that the word 
and will of Germany would at the critical moment be 
decisive with Austria. It was therefore to Germany that 
we must address ourselves. 

3. That, if war came, the interest of Britain required 
that we should not stand aside, while France fought 
alone in the West, but must support her. I knew it to 
be very doubtful whether the Cabinet, Parliament, and 
the country would take this view on the outbreak of 
war, and through the whole of this week I had in view 
the probable contingency that we should not decide at 
the critical moment to support France. In that event 



I should have to resign; but the decision of the country 
could not be forced, and the contingency might not arise, 
and meanwhile I must go on. 

4. A clear view that no pledge must be given, no hope 
even held out to France and Russia, which it was doubtful 
whether this country would fulfil. One danger I saw so 
hideous that it must be avoided and guarded against at 
every word. It was that France and Russia might face 
the ordeal of war with Germany relying upon our sup- 
port; that this support might not be forthcoming, and 
that we might then, when it was too late, be held respon- 
sible by them for having let them in for a disastrous war. 
Of course I could resign if I gave them hopes which 
it turned out that the Cabinet and Parliament would not 
sanction. But what good would my resignation be to 
them in their ordeal? This was the vision of possible 
blood guilt that I saw, and I was resolved that I would 
have none of it on my head. 

The first three of these considerations shall be exam- 
ined in the light of the fuller knowledge brought by 
after events. This will be done in another chapter. The 
fourth will be amplified and explained in the course of 
the narrative of events in the following pages of this 
chapter. All four, however, combined to lead to one 
conclusion and to point one moral. War must, if pos- 
sible, be prevented. Every one of these considerations 
worked in me to concentrate all my work on that one 
object; that was, and till the last moment remained, the 
motive of my action. 

At this point it may be well to remind the reader that 
this book records what came under the personal obser- 
vation of the author and what passed through his mind. 
It is not concerned with discussing what others have 



written about the war. Of war literature there is a vast 
amount in several languages; some of it may cover 
ground that is not touched upon here. To read, to weigh 
the value of each contribution and to collate the whole is 
work for the historian, who has time to read, ability to 
grasp, and impartiality to judge. Here I confine myself 
to my own part and that which was within my personal 

Day by day I consulted with Nicolson at the Foreign 
Office. We agreed that, if things became more anxious 
and the prospect grew darker, I should propose a Con- 
ference. In one aspect the proposal was hopeful and 
attractive. It would be on the lines of the Conference 
of Ambassadors in 1912-13. That was of good augury, 
and it could be set to work at a day’s notice. The same 
personnel was still in London: Cambon, Lichnowsky, 
Benckendorff, Mensdorff, Imperiali, and myself; we were 
all loyal colleagues, who not only knew, but trusted each 
other. If our respective Governments would only use 
us and trust us and give us the chance, we could keep 
the peace of Europe in any crisis. And it would be an 
honourable peace, there would be no diplomatic scares; 
no vaunting on one side and humiliation on another. 
After the submission of the Serbian reply to Austria, 
how easy it would be to arrange peace with honour, at 
any rate to Austria! 

On the other hand, I felt some hesitation about again 
proposing a Conference. It had been suggested to me, 
perhaps quite wrongly, that in proposing and presiding 
over the 1912-13 Conference I had seemed to one high 
person in Berlin to be a little too prominent in continental 
affairs. Was I to be always putting myself forward as 
the composer of Balkan troubles in which Britain had 


less direct interest herself or through Allies than any 
other Great Power? Also I had an instinctive feeling 
that this time Germany would make difficulties about a 
Conference. If necessary, however, these considerations 
were to be put aside and the proposal of a Conference 
was to be made. 

In discussing the situation with Nicolson, it had been 
agreed between us that at an opportune moment, or as a 
last resort, we should propose a Conference. It was not 
easy to decide which was the opportune moment. To 
make the proposal too early was to court refusal on the 
ground that a Conference was unnecessary and prema- 
ture; possibly it would have more chance of being ac- 
cepted if it came from some other quarter. Britain had 
taken such a leading part in the Conference of 1912-13; 
now it was the turn of someone else. On the other hand, 
if no one else moved, then the proposal must be made 
by us before it was too late. 

My usual week-end was curtailed, but things were 
not yet so critical that it was unsafe to be out of town even 
for the Sunday, and I left Nicolson in charge that day, 
July 26. He judged it desirable not to delay any longer 
the proposal for a Conference, and sent it. This circular 
appears as No. 36 in the White Paper. 

I entirely approved of what Nicolson had done, but 
I was not altogether hopeful about the answer we should 
get from Berlin. I believed German preparations for 
war to be much more advanced than those of France and 
Russia; the Conference would give time for the latter 
Powers to prepare and for the situation to be altered to 
the disadvantage of Germany, who now had a distinct 
advantage. I was prepared for some stipulations or con- 
ditions from Germany and apprehensive that she would 



not give an immediate acceptance. We must be ready, 
if such points were raised, to give or get guarantees that 
there would be no mobilizations during the Conference; 
but I did not think there would be substance in such 
points: it seemed so certain after the Serbian reply that 
a Conference, once summoned, must succeed and could 
not break down or fail. So clear did this seem that I 
felt that no objections of form or punctilio, no points not 
of real substance, should prevent any Government from 
agreeing to a proposal for a Conference. The way in 
which the proposal would be received would be a test 
of the genuineness and earnestness of the desire of each 
Government for peace. I was therefore very much sur- 
prised, even dismayed, when Benckendorff, on my telling 
him that the proposal had been made, expressed the opin- 
ion that the Russian Government would not agree to it. 
I told him emphatically, that it was from Germany that 
I feared objection : she was more prepared for war than 
Russia or France, and she might urge that the proposed 
Conference was therefore to their advantage and to her 
disadvantage. The two despatches that follow, though 
they were prior to the actual proposal of a Conference, 
will explain what was in Benckendorff’s mind and what 
was in mine about a Conference : 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir G . Buchanan 

Foreign Office, 

July 25, 1914. 

You spoke quite rightly in very difficult circumstances as to the 
attitude of His Majesty's Government. I entirely approve what you 
said, as reported in your telegram of yesterday, and I cannot promise 
more on behalf of the Government. 

I do not consider that public opinion here would or ought to sanction 
our going to war over a Servian quarrel. If, however, war does take 


Formerly Sir Arthur Nicholson. British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, 1905 
1910, and Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1910-1916 


place, the development of other issues may draw us into it, and I am 
therefore anxious to prevent it. 

The sudden, brusque, and peremptory character of the Austrian 
demarche makes it almost inevitable that in a very short time both 
Russia and Austria will have mobilised against each other. In this 
event, the only chance of peace, in my opinion, is for the other four 
Powers to join in asking the Austrian and Russian Governments not 
to cross the frontier, and to give time for the four Powers acting at 
Vienna and St. Petersburgh to try and arrange matters. If Germany 
will adopt this view, I feel strongly that France and ourselves should 
act upon it. Italy would no doubt gladly co-operate. 

No diplomatic intervention or mediation would be tolerated by 
either Russia or Austria unless it was clearly impartial and included the 
allies or friends of both. The co-operation of Germany would, there- 
fore, be essential. (No. 24 of White Paper.) 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Buchanan 1 

Foreign Office, 

July 25, 1914. 

Sir, — I told Count Benckendorff to-day of what I had said to 
the German Ambassador this morning as to the possibility of Germany, 
Italy, France, and ourselves working together in Vienna and St. Peters- 
burg to secure peace after Austria and Russia had mobilized. 

Count Benckendorff was very apprehensive lest what I had said 
should give Germany the impression that France and England were 
detached from Russia. 

I said that France and ourselves, according to my suggestion, would 
be no more detached from Russia than Germany would be detached 
from her Ally, Austria. I had emphasized to Prince Lichnowsky that 
the participation of Germany in any such diplomatic mediation was an 
essential condition, and the situation was not made unsatisfactory for 
Russia if France and England held their hands, provided that Ger- 
many also held hers. 

Count Benckendorff urged that I should give some indication to 

1 In the original White Paper, which was issued in great haste, a number 
appears with a blank under it, implying that a document had been included 
in the first proof and subsequently omitted. Careful enquiry has been made at 
the Foreign Office, and I am assured that this document is the one that was 

308 twenty-five years 

Germany to make her think that we would not stand aside if there 
was a war. 

I said that I had given no indication that we would stand aside. 
I had said to the German Ambassador that, as long as there was only 
a dispute between Austria and Serbia alone, I did not feel entitled to 
intervene ; but that, directly it was a matter between Austria and Russia, 
it became a question of the peace of Europe, which concerned us all. 
I had furthermore spoken on the assumption that Russia would mobilize, 
whereas the assumption of the German Government had hitherto been, 
officially, that Serbia would receive no support; and what I had said 
must influence the German Government to take the matter seriously. 
In effect, I was asking that if Russia mobilized against Austria, the 
German Government, who had been supporting the Austrian demand 
on Serbia, should ask Austria to consider some modification of her 
demands, under the threat of Russian mobilization. This was not an 
easy thing for Germany to do, even though we should join at the same 
time in asking Russia to suspend action. I was afraid, too, that Ger- 
many would reply that mobilization with her was a question of hours, 
whereas with Russia it was a question of days ; and that, as a matter of 
fact, I had asked that, if Russia mobilized against Austria, Germany, 
instead of mobilizing against Russia should suspend mobilization and 
join with us in intervention with Austria, thereby throwing away the 
advantage of time, for, if the diplomatic intervention failed, Russia 
would meanwhile have gained time for her mobilization. It was true 
that I had not said anything directly as to whether we would take any 
part or not if there was a European conflict, and I could not say so ; but 
there was absolutely nothing for Russia to complain of in the suggestion 
that I had made to the German Government, and I was only afraid 
that there might be difficulty in its acceptance by the German Govern- 
ment. I had made it on my own responsibility, and I had no doubt 
it was the best proposal to make in the interests of peace. I am., etc., 

E. Grey. 

Sazonof did not raise any of these objections, and was 
ready to stand and let the Conference have its chance, if 
Austria would hold her hand. France and Italy were 
ready to co-operate. Germany did not raise the objection 
I had feared, but, while agreeing in principle, vetoed 



the Conference. Von Jagow said at once that it would 
be like a court of arbitration, which could not be called 
together except at the request of Austria and Russia, and 
he would not therefore fall in with the suggestion: 

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received July 27) 


July 27, 1914. 

Your telegram of 26th July. 

Secretary of State says that conference you suggest would practically 
amount to a court of arbitration and could not, in his opinion, be called 
together except at the request of Austria and Russia. He could not, 
therefore, fall in with your suggestion, desirous though he was to co- 
operate for the maintenance of peace. I said I was sure that your idea 
had nothing to do with arbitration, but meant that representatives of 
the four nations not directly interested should discuss and suggest means 
for avoiding a dangerous situation. He maintained, however, that 
such a Conference as you proposed was not practicable. He added that 
news he had just received from St. Petersburg showed that there was an 
intention on the part of M. de Sazonof to exchange views with Count 
Berchtold. He thought that this method of procedure might lead to a 
satisfactory result, and that it would be best, before doing anything 
else, to await outcome of the exchange of views between the Austrian 
and Russian Governments. 

In the course of a short conversation Secretary of State said that as 
yet Austria was only partially mobilizing ; but that if Russia mobilized 
against Germany latter would have to follow suit. I asked him what 
he meant by “mobilizing against Germany.” He said that if Russia 
only mobilized in south, Germany would not mobilize, but if she 
mobilized in north, Germany would have to do so too, and Russian 
system of mobilization was so complicated that it might be difficult 
exactly to locate her mobilization. Germany would therefore have to 
be very careful not to be taken by surprise. 

Finally, Secretary of State said that news from St. Petersburg had 
caused him to take more hopeful view of the general situation. 



Von Bethmann-Hollweg said that such a Conference 
would have had the appearance of an “Areopagus,” con- 
sisting of two Powers of each group, sitting in judgment 
upon the remaining two Powers: 

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received July 29) 


July 28, 1914. 

At invitation of Imperial Chancellor, I called upon His Excellency 
this evening. He said that he wished me to tell you that he was most 
anxious that Germany should work together with England for main- 
tenance of general peace, as they had done successfully in the last 
European crisis. He had not been able to accept your proposal for a 
Conference of representatives of the Great Powers, because he did not 
think that it would be effective, and because such a Conference would, 
in his opinion, have had appearance of an “Areopagus” consisting of 
two Powers of each group sitting in judgment upon the two remaining 
Powers; but his inability to accept proposed Conference must not be 
regarded as militating against his strong desire for effective co-operation. 
You could be assured that he was doing his very best both at Vienna 
and St. Petersburg to get the two Governments to discuss the situation 
directly with each other and in a friendly way. He had great hopes that 
sueh discussions would take place and lead to a satisfactory result ; but, 
if the news were true which he had just read in the papers, that Russia 
had mobilized fourteen army corps in the south, he thought situation 
was very serious, and he himself would be in a very difficult position, 
as in these circumstances it would be out of his power to continue to 
preach moderation at Vienna. He added that Austria, who as yet was 
only partially mobilizing, would have to take similar measures, and, 
if war were to result, Russia would be entirely responsible. I ventured 
to say that if Austria refused to take any notice of Servian note, which, 
to my mind, gave way in nearly every point demanded by Austria, 
and which in any case offered a basis for discussion, surely a certain 
portion of responsibility would rest with her. His Excellency said that 
he did not wish to discuss Servian note, but that Austria’s standpoint, 
and in this he agreed, was that her quarrel with Servia was a purely 
Austrian concern with which Russia had nothing to do. He reiterated 


his desire to co-operate with England and his intention to do his utmost 
to maintain general peace. “A war between the Great Powers must 
be avoided” were his last words. 

Austrian colleagues said to me to-day that a general war was most 
unlikely, as Russia neither wanted nor was in a position to make war. 
I think that that opinion is shared by many people here. (No. 71 of 
White Paper.) 

The effect of these replies was not only depressing, but 
exasperating. I really felt angry with von Bethmann- 
Hollweg and von Jagow. They had given us to under- 
stand that they had not seen the terms of the Austrian 
ultimatum to Serbia before it was sent; they had been 
critical of it when they saw it. Von Jagow had said that, 
as a diplomatic document, it left something to be desired, 
and contained some demands that Serbia could not comply 
with. By their own admission they had allowed thefr 
weaker Ally to handle a situation on which the peace of 
Europe might depend, without asking beforehand what 
she was going to say and without apparently lifting a 
finger to moderate her, when she had delivered an ulti- 
matum of the terms of which they did not entirely ap- 
prove. Now they vetoed the only certain means of peace- 
ful settlement without, as far as I knew, even referring 
it to Austria at all. For the whole presumption of von 
Jagow’s and von Bethmann-Hollweg’s language in Nos. 
43 and 71 was that they turned down the Conference 
without consulting Austria. The complacency with 
which they had let Austria launch the ultimatum on 
Serbia was deplorable, and to me unaccountable; the 
blocking of a Conference was still worse. 

I remember well the impulse to say that, as Germany 
forbade a Conference, I could do no more, and that it 
was on Germany that the responsibility must rest if war 



came. But this impulse was put aside; to have acted on 
it would have been to give up hopes of peace, and to make 
it the object of diplomatic action to throw the blame for 
war on Germany in advance. That would mean not only 
ceasing to work for peace, but making war certain, and, 
though the veto of a Conference in my opinion lessened 
the prospect of peace, there might still be some other 
solution. With good-will, direct negotiations between 
Austria and Russia might succeed ; von Bethmann-Holl- 
weg might have in mind some other means by which his 
influence could be used for peace. At any rate, as long as 
war was not absolutely certain, it was no time to show 
anger or load von Bethmann-Hollweg with reproaches; 
the issues of peace or war seemed then to depend on 
him more than on anyone. If we were not to give up in 
despair, if we were to continue to try for peace, we 
must not break with him, we must endeavour still to 
work with him. Let it not be supposed that I thought 
von Bethmann-Hollweg or von Jagow insincere. I have 
said why I felt exasperated and angry at what seemed 
to me their supineness and passive obstruction, but I 
believed them to be sincere in their desire for a peace- 
ful solution; I accepted, without doubt, what they 
said to that effect. I was sure they did not want war. 
I was, therefore, still ready to co-operate in any other way 
for peace that von Bethmann-Hollweg could devise and 
preferred. In that sense I replied. 

But now something that had always been an uncomfort- 
able suspicion in the background came to the front and 
took more definite and ugly shape. There were forces 
other than Bethmann-Hollweg in the seat of authority in 
Germany. He was not master of the situation; in nego- 
tiating with him we were not negotiating with a principal. 


Yet he was the only authority with whom we could nego- 
tiate at all. Earlier in the summer Colonel House had 
been in London, and I had seen him then. He had just 
come from Berlin, and he had spoken with grave feeling 
of the impression he had received there; how the air 
seemed full of the clash of arms, of readiness to strike. 
This might have been discounted as the impression which 
would naturally have been produced on an American 
seeing at close quarters a continental military system for 
the first time. It was as alien to our temperament as to 
his, but it was familiar to us. We had lived beside it for 
years; we had known and watched its growth ever since 
1870. But House was a man of exceptional knowledge 
and cool judgment. What if this militarism had now 
taken control of policy? The thought of 191 r and Agadir 
recurred. There had then been tense diplomatic strain, 
lasting for weeks, but ending in peace; and precisely be- 
cause it had ended, not in a German dictated decision or 
in war, but in peace by compromise, there had been an 
outburst in Germany against German diplomacy — of 
which the demonstration made by the Crown Prince in 
the gallery of the Reichstag during the Agadir dispute 
had been a symptom. The Emperor had been supposed 
at the last to have favoured the peaceful settlement of the 
Agadir affair; his popularity had suffered, and that of the 
Crown Prince had gained by the role attributed to each 
respectively. Even if the Emperor favoured a peaceful 
settlement now, would his position bear the strain of a 
further loss of popularity? 

The precedent of 1870 was ominous; we all knew how 
Prussian militarism had availed itself of this time and 
season of the year at which to strike. The same time 
and season of the year were now approaching. From the 



moment that Bethmann-Hollweg vetoed a Conference, 
without qualification, without condition or reservation 
suggested on which a Conference might be agreed to, I 
felt that he would not be allowed to make a peaceful end 
to the negotiations. Nothing short of a diplomatic 
triumph for Germany and humiliation for us and France 
and Russia would be accepted as a conclusion by the mili- 
tary forces. Such diplomatic triumph on the German 
side and humiliation on the other as would smash the 
Entente, and, if it did not break the Franco- Russian Alli- 
ance, would leave it without spirit, a spineless and helpless 
thing. If Bethmann-Hollweg could secure that, then 
indeed he could hold his place and make a settlement, 
but not otherwise. There could be no repetition of 1911, 
and it seemed to me that, whether he would admit this to 
himself or not, he knew it, and that consciously or sub- 
consciously this was what decided his veto of a 

It may be well here to ask the reader to pause for a 
moment and to see that he has firmly in his mind what this 
chapter is intended to be. It is a record of how I thought 
and felt at the time from day to day; not a final judgment. 
If the reader feels the impulse to qualify or dissent, I 
would ask him to suspend it till he comes to the further 
chapter in which this one will be reviewed. He will then 
be able to compare his own qualifications and present 
judgment on men and affairs with mine, as they are now 
with fuller knowledge and after-reflection on the event. 

After the refusal of a Conference one blow to the 
prospects of peace followed after another. I do not sug- 
gest that I thought them the direct consequence of the 
refusal of a Conference; they were rather like the delib- 
erate, relentless strokes of Fate, determined on human 


misfortune, as they are represented in Greek tragedy. It 
was as if Peace were engaged in a struggle for life, and, 
whenever she seemed to have a chance, some fresh and 
more deadly blow was struck. 

On the morning of Thursday, July 30, I was confronted 
by the following telegram. It appears as No. 85 in the 
White Paper, but it should be read here : 

Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey 
(Received July 29) 


July 29, 1915. 

I was asked to call upon the Chancellor to-night. His Excellency 
had just returned from Potsdam. 

He said that, should Austria be attacked by Russia, a European 
conflagration might, he feared, become inevitable, owing to Germany’s 
obligations as Austria’s Ally, in spite of his continued efforts to main- 
tain peace. He then proceeded to make the following strong bid for 
British neutrality. He said that it was clear, so far as he was able to 
judge the main principle which governed British policy, that Great 
Britain would never stand by and allow France to be crushed in any 
conflict there might be. That, however, was not the object at which 
Germany aimed. Provided that neutrality of Great Britain were cer- 
tain, every assurance would be given to the British Government that 
the Imperial Government aimed at no territorial acquisition at the ex- 
pense of France, should they prove victorious in any war that might 

I questioned His Excellency about the French colonies, and he said 
that he was unable to give a similar undertaking in that respect. As 
regards Holland, however, His Excellency said that, so long as Ger- 
many’s adversaries respected the integrity and neutrality of the Nether- 
lands, Germany was ready to give His Majesty’s Government an 
assurance that she would do likewise. It depended upon the action of 
France what operations Germany might be forced to enter upon in 
Belgium; but, when the war was over, Belgian integrity would be 
respected if she had not sided against Germany. 

His Excellency ended by saying that ever since he had been Chancellor 



the object of his policy had been, as you were aware, to bring about an 
understanding with England ; he trusted that these assurances might 
form the basis of that understanding which he so much desired. He 
had in mind a general neutrality agreement between England and Ger- 
many, though it was of course at the present moment too early to discuss 
details, and an assurance of British neutrality in the conflict which 
present crisis might possibly produce would enable him to look forward 
to realization of his desire. 

In reply to His Excellency’s enquiry how I thought his request would 
appeal to you, I said that I did not think it probable that at this stage 
of events you would care to bind yourself to any course of action, and 
that I was of opinion that you would desire to retain full liberty. 

Our conversation upon this subject having come to an end, I com- 
municated the contents of your telegram of to-day (No. 77 in White 
Paper) to His Excellency, who expressed his best thanks to you. 

I read it through with a feeling of despair. The docu- 
ment made it clear that Bethmann-Hollweg now thought 
war probable. We were henceforth to converse upon how 
we should conduct ourselves in war, no longer how war 
could be avoided. But even that was not the worst feature 
introduced into new negotiations. The proposal made 
to us meant everlasting dishonour if we accepted it. If 
Britain did remain neutral, people would expect the Gov- 
ernment to stipulate terms for our neutrality. I had con- 
templated resignation if war came and we declined to 
stand by France, and I had therefore thought nothing as 
to making conditions for our neutrality. This bid from 
Bethmann-Hollweg was like a searchlight lighting up an 
aspect of the situation which had not been looked at yet. 
I saw how difficult the situation would be even for those 
who were most resolved to keep out of war, if war came. 
If their policy carried the day, they would be expected 
to turn British neutrality to account, to ensure that the 
conditions for it were such that the British position was 



not jeopardized by the war. What stipulations could they 
make? If it was dishonouring and impossible to accept 
the price and the conditions here offered, what other price 
or conditions could they require in British interests that 
were not dishonouring to Britain? The answer was clear 
— there were none. If it were decided to remain neutral 
we must, after this bribe offered by Bethmann-Hollweg, 
remain neutral without conditions. 

There was further matter for depression in this tele- 
gram. Did Bethmann-Hollweg not understand, could 
he not see, that he was making an offer that would dis- 
honour us if we agreed to it? What sort of man was it 
who could not see that? Or did he think so badly of us 
that he thought we should not see it? Every thought the 
telegram suggested pointed to despair. But while there 
is still time one does not sit down under despair, only the 
effort to lift it must be big and the appeal must be big. 

I sat down and wrote the answer (No. 101 in the White 
Paper) as follows: 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen 

Foreign Office, 

July 29, 1914. 

Your telegram of 29th July. 

His Majesty’s Government cannot for a moment entertain the 
Chancellor’s proposal that they should bind themselves to neutrality 
on such terms. 

What he asks us, in effect, is to engage to stand by while French 
colonies are taken and France is beaten so long as Germany does not 
take French territory as distinct from the colonies. 

From the material point of view such a proposal is unacceptable, 
for France, without further territory in Europe being taken from her, 
could be so crushed as to lose her position as a Great Power, and be- 
come subordinate to German policy. 

Altogether apart from that, it would be a disgrace for us to make 



this bargain with Germany at the expense of France — a disgrace from 
which the good name of this country would never recover. 

The Chancellor also, in effect, asks us to bargain away whatever 
obligation or interest we have as regards the neutrality of Belgium. We 
could not entertain that bargain either. 

Having said so much, it is unnecessary to examine whether the pros- 
pect of a future general neutrality agreement between England and 
Germany offered positive advantages sufficient to compensate us for 
tying our hands now. We must preserve our full freedom to act as 
circumstances may seem to us to require in any such unfavourable and 
regrettable development of the present crisis as the Chancellor con- 

You should speak to the Chancellor in the above sense, and add 
most earnestly that the one way of maintaining the good relations 
between England and Germany is that they should continue to work 
together to preserve the peace of Europe; if we succeed in this object, 
the mutual relations of Germany and England will, I believe, be 
ipso facto improved and strengthened. For that object His Majesty’s 
Government will work in that way with all sincerity and good-will. 

And I will say this: If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the 
present crisis safely passed, my own endeavour will be to promote some 
arrangement to which Germany could be a party, by which she could 
be assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against 
her or her Allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately. 
I have desired this, and worked for it, as far as I could, through the 
last Balkan Crisis, and, Germany having a corresponding object, our 
relations sensibly improved. The idea has hitherto been too Utopian to 
form the subject of definite proposals, but if this present crisis, so much 
more acute than any that Europe has gone through for generations, 
be safely passed, I am hopeful that the relief and reaction which will 
follow may make possible some more definite rapprochement between 
the Powers than has been possible hitherto. 

I took this to Asquith in 10 Downing Street. There 
was to be a Cabinet that afternoon, but we agreed that the 
answer might be sent without waiting for the Cabinet. 
Time pressed, and it was certain that the Cabinet would 

(Now the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, K.G.) 

Photograph by Rt<sscll, London 



3 r 9 

agree that this bid for neutrality could not be accepted. 
We should be execrated here and everywhere if we as- 
sented beforehand to Germany taking French colonies and 
if we condoned in advance violation of Belgian neutrality 
— for that was what acceptance of the bid meant for us. 
Von Bethmann-Hollweg was careful not to say that Ger- 
many would not violate Belgium neutrality unless France 
did so first. 

I returned to the Foreign Office and showed it to those 
whom I was in the habit of consulting there. It was sug- 
gested to me that the last part of the telegram might not 
be acceptable to France. But it had already been ap- 
proved as a whole by Asquith, and what I had written 
represented my own feeling and my last hope. We had 
all of us been looking into the abyss for some days. There 
seemed just a chance that the sight might make possible 
what had not been possible before. It could not be sup- 
posed that, if others rose to the larger view, France would 
be an exception. The prospect of war, that was hideous 
enough to us, must be still more horrible and menacing 
to France. So the telegram was sent. In the afternoon 
both Goschen’s telegram and mine were read to the Cab- 
inet, and they approved what had been done. 

The next day, Friday, July 31, I took a diplomatic step 
that contemplated the contingency of war. A request was 
addressed to the French and German Governments asking 
each for an assurance that it would respect the neutrality 
of Belgium, so long as no other Power violated it. The 
request was sent simultaneously to both Governments and 
without any previous arrangement with France, but it 
was obvious to everybody that France desired the neu- 
trality of Belgium and would do everything to preserve 
it so long as it was intact and would avoid anything that 



might give a pretext for its violation by Germany. The 
step now taken in London was in close accord with the 
attitude of Mr. Gladstone’s Government in the Franco- 
Prussian War of 1870. On that occasion both France 
and Germany agreed to respect Belgian neutrality. This 
time France agreed, Germany evaded the request for an 

Germany ceased to talk of anything but the Russian 
mobilization. I could do nothing to stop that. The 
rejection of a Conference struck out of my hand what 
might have been a lever to influence Russia to suspend 
military preparations. If a Conference had been agreed 
to, if even Germany had said that a Conference could 
only be agreed to on condition that Russia did not 
mobilize more than Austria, I should have had some locus 
standi on which to work at St. Petersburg. But through- 
out these negotiations I had been given nothing that would 
help me at St. Petersburg. I felt impatient at the sug- 
gestion that it was for me to influence or restrain Russia. 
I could do nothing but express pious hopes in general 
terms to Sazonof. If I were to address a direct request 
to him that Russia should not mobilize, I knew his reply; 
Germany was much more ready for war than Russia; 
it was a tremendous risk for Russia to delay her mobiliza- 
tion, which was anyhow a slow and cumbrous affair. If 
Russia took that risk, in deference to our request, would 
Britain support her, if war did ultimately come and she 
found herself at a disadvantage owing to following our 
advice? To such a request the only answer could be that 
we would give no promise. If we gave a promise at all 
it must be to France, and my promise to Russia must be 
only consequential on that. The Cabinet was not pre- 
pared yet to give a promise even to France. This consid- 



eration was always present to my mind in all communi- 
cations to St. Petersburg during these critical days. 

But besides this I did most honestly feel that neither 
Russian nor French mobilization was an unreasonable or 
unnecessary precaution. In Germany, in the centre of 
Europe, was the greatest army the world had ever seen, 
in a greater state of preparedness than any other, and what 
spirit was behind? I did not think the German Emperor 
counted for much, but others did, and the ring of his 
speeches, “Smite in the face with my mailed fist,” “shining 
armour,” “sharp sword,” etc., was ever in people’s ears. 
There was, too, the recollection of 1870 and the revelations 
of the Ems telegram. How could anyone urge on Russia 
or France that the precaution of mobilization was unrea- 
sonable? How could anyone affirm that it was safe to 
omit that precaution? For I believed the French and 
Russian mobilizations to be preparation, but not war. 
Indeed, the French, when they mobilized, did it with 
instructions that no troops were to go within ten kilo- 
metres of the German frontier. With Germany mobiliza- 
tion was something different. It was the last, and not 
the first word. The mechanism was so arranged that 
precaution and preparations were always taken and made. 
Mobilization was the word, and it was followed immedi- 
ately by the blow. The Russian mobilization was there- 
fore replied to, not by mobilization in the same sense in 
Germany, but by mobilization with an ultimatum to 
Russia that made war certain. This, too, at a moment 
when there seemed still some chance, even an improving 
chance, that Austria and Russia might come to terms 
direct over the Serbian trouble. It seemed to me that 
Germany had precipitated war. My reading of the situ- 
ation at the time was that Austria had gone recklessly 


ahead against Serbia, believing that the history of the 
annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be re- 
peated; that she could humiliate Serbia and that Russia 
would, as in 1908, recoil before the “shining armour” of 
Germany and that there would be no great war. When 
Austria found that the parallel of 1908 was not to be 
repeated and that things were serious, she began to try 
to get out of it. Germany then precipitated war and told 
Austria, that as an Ally, she could not get out. This im- 
pression was confirmed in my mind by the fact that it was 
not till five days after Germany had declared war on 
Russia that Austria was herself at war with Russia. The 
White Paper gives all that I knew at the time of what 
was going on, and on that it was natural that I should 
come to this conclusion; it seemed impossible to come to 
any other conclusion. That was then, to me, the true 
account of how the war was brought about. 

It is of some interest here to recall that, some time in 
the days before the war, I remember drawing a com- 
parison between the crisis over Serbia now and that in 
1908, I think, to someone in the Foreign Office; that I 
did this and I drew exactly the opposite conclusion that 
I now suppose Austria to have drawn at first. I said that 
no great Power could submit to a second humiliation such 
as Isvolsky and Russia had suffered in 1908. It was pre- 
cisely because Russia had recoiled in 1908 that she was 
sure not to abdicate her Slav role now. 

I have now endeavoured to give an account of what I 
thought and intended in negotiations with Germany dur- 
ing this fateful week, and I have explained the point of 
view at which I stood when Germany declared war on 
Russia and how I felt about it. 

It is necessary now to turn back a few days from this 


3 2 3 

point and describe more fully what passed with France 
and Russia about promises of support, more particularly 
with France, for the question of supporting Russia was 
always subordinate to that of supporting France. To 
understand the great and most embarrassing difficulty in 
which the whole Government was placed in answering 
the French request for a promise of help, it is necessary 
to review somewhat fully the state of opinion inside and 
outside the Government. This was very divided up to 
the last moment; and when there is division on such an 
issue as peace or war, it cannot be bridged by formulas. 

It is probably difficult for some of those who were 
strongly opposed to war to recall now what they thought 
during that last week of July. They felt so differently 
and so deeply afterwards, when they realized what Prus- 
sian militarism meant in war. Now, when the possibility 
of war appeared, there was an anti-war party in the 
Cabinet. As possibility became probability this party 
naturally became at first not less but more active and 
determined. It did not appear in Cabinet discussions, for 
neither I nor anyone tried to force a decision while there 
was still any hope of peace. Discussions in the Cabinet 
were restrained and reserved, for we kept to that on which 
we were all agreed — the endeavour to prevent war alto- 
gether. But outside the Cabinet I felt sure that the anti- 
war group were meeting, were arranging concerted action, 
if need be, to keep this country out of war or to resign if 
they failed in doing so. I was told afterwards, when we 
were united in the stress of war, that what had been as- 
sumed at the time was in fact true. This group included 
more than one of the names that came next after that of 
the Prime Minister in authority and influence with the 
Liberal Party inside and outside. It is needless to enquire 



whether the group included half, or less, or more than 
half the Cabinet; it was sufficient in number and influence 
to have broken up the Cabinet. I made no attempt to 
counteract this movement either inside or outside the 
Government. I do not remember asking any colleague to 
support participation in war, if war came. There was 
not a moment to spare from the exhausting and exacting 
work of the Foreign Office in that week; but, apart from 
this, I felt that, if the country went into such a war, it 
must do so whole-heartedly, with feeling and conviction 
so strong as to compel practical unanimity. If that came, 
all the workings of anti-war sections would be as if they 
had never been. If the country could be kept out of the 
war by such a division of forces, it had better keep out 
and stand aside. It must certainly not be manceuvered 
into a great war by the counter-workings of a pro-war 
against an anti-war group. 

It was clear to me that no authority would be obtained 
from the Cabinet to give the pledge for which France 
pressed more and more urgently, and that to press the 
Cabinet for a pledge would be fatal; it would result in 
the resignation of one group or the other, and the conse- 
quent break-up of the Cabinet altogether. That was my 
deliberate estimate of the situation, and all I knew or 
heard afterwards confirms the opinion that it was at the 
time a true estimate. There was also more than the divi- 
sion of opinion in the Cabinet to be taken into account. 
There was division in Parliament and in the country. A 
section there was, no doubt, that identified Germany with 
Prussian militarism, and identified Prussian militarism 
with all that was evil and hostile to Britain. It was a 
concentrated and active section, but it did not express 
the prevailing feeling in the country. The country in 



general wanted peace. Some Germans cannot understand 
why we went into the war, because the motive that im- 
pelled us is something outside their perception. Because 
that is so, because they cannot see the real motive, they 
invent reasons other than the true one, to account for 
British action. One of these motives very generally 
attributed to us is that of industrial rivalry and commer- 
cial jealousy of Germany. It is the reverse of the truth. 
Our great industrial districts, especially Lancashire, were 
most averse to war. Trade was good, industry wanted to 
be undisturbed. 

Some pro-French feeling there was — quite a substantial 
touch of it, quite as much of this as there was of anti- 
German feeling; but it was not enough to outweigh the 
general desire to keep out of war. The notion of being 
involved in war about a Balkan quarrel was repugnant. 
Serbia, to British people, was a country with which a few 
years ago we had severed diplomatic relations, because of 
a brutal murder of the King and Queen; and, though that 
was over, and we were now on good terms, there was no 
sentiment urging us to go into a war on Serbia’s behalf. 
If France were involved, it would not be in any quarrel in 
which we owed her good-will, as in the Moroccan dis- 
putes. It would indeed not be in any quarrel of her own 
at all; it would be because she, as Russia’s Ally, had the 
misfortune to be involved in a Russian quarrel, in which 
France had no direct interest and which did not arouse 
feeling in the French people. Even on questions such as 
Morocco we had carefully limited our obligation to diplo- 
matic support only. We were not bound to give even that 
in this Serbian trouble. What, it was asked, was the good 
of keeping so carefully clear of alliances and obligations 
if we were to be drawn into European war in such a 


3 26 

quarrel as this? People were sorry for France’s misfor- 
tune in being involved in war by an alliance with Russia; 
but was that any reason why we, who had not the risk of 
an alliance, should be involved in the misfortune and 
danger of a course that we had deliberately avoided for 
the very reason that we thought it dangerous? Such I 
felt to be how the situation was viewed by numbers of 
people, and I knew the desire to keep out of war to be 
very widespread and strong. If this feeling had not been 
represented in the Cabinet, the Government would have 
been out of touch with the country — an unsafe position in 
any circumstances, a most dangerous one in a crisis. 

It must be admitted that if there were not an anti-war 
group in the Cabinet there ought to have been. Some of 
us, on the other hand, felt that the considerations stated 
above did not touch the true issue. We felt that to stand 
aside would mean the domination of Germany; the sub- 
ordination of France and Russia; the isolation of Britain, 
the hatred of her by both those who had feared and those 
who had wished for her intervention in the war; and 
ultimately that Germany would wield the whole power 
of the Continent. How would she use it as regards 
Britain? Could anyone feel comfortable about that ques- 
tion? Could anyone give to it truthfully in his heart any 
but a sinister and foreboding answer? 

The House of Commons showed to the full this division 
of opinion. In the last week of July, Bonar Law, the 
Leader of the Conservative Party in the House, came 
daily to my room there at question time before I returned 
to the Foreign Office, to ask what the news of the crisis 
was. One day, about the middle of the week, as the news 
got more ominous, he said that it was not easy to be sure 
what the opinion of the whole of his party was. He 



doubted whether it would be unanimous or overwhelm- 
ingly in favour of war, unless Belgian neutrality were 
invaded; in that event, he said, it would be unanimous . 1 
If Conservatives were not unanimous, Liberal opinion was 
still more uncertain. About the same time a very active 
Liberal member came up to me in the Lobby and told 
me that he wished me to understand that under no circum- 
stances whatever ought this country to take part in the 
war, if it came. He spoke in a dictatorial tone, in the 
manner of a superior addressing a subordinate, whom he 
thought needed a good talking to. It did not seem to 
occur to him that if men like himself were feeling the 
strain of the situation, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs 
might be feeling it as much, or more, and the strain was 
very great, and the more it was controlled in official work 
the more apt it was to seek relief on other occasions. I 
answered pretty roughly to the effect that I hoped we 
should not be involved in war, but that it was nonsense 
to say that there were no circumstances conceivable in 
which we ought to go to war. “Under no circumstances 
whatever,” was the retort. “Suppose Germany violates 
the neutrality of Belgium?” For a moment he paused, 
like one who, running at speed, finds himself suddenly 
confronted with an obstacle, unexpected and unforeseen. 

*It has been said that I must have misunderstood Bonar Law; but the state- 
ment in the text is well within the mark of what he said to me in the middle 
of the week. He referred only to the opinion of the rank and file of his party; 
not to his own opinion or to that of other leaders. I supposed that a large 
majority of the Conservative Party would support action to help France; but 
that some opinion outside the Conservative front bench reserved its decision till 
later is certain. 

I am ready to assume that even in the middle of the last week of July the 
leaders of the Conservative Party were unanimous, though it was not till (I 
think) Sunday, August 2, that their decision was conveyed to us. As to Bonar 
Law’s own opinion, he never expressed it to me at this stage. Nor do I 
remember that I expressed mine to him. Each of us probably assumed the 
other to be convinced that we ought not to stand aside, if France were attacked. 



Then he said with emphasis, “She won’t do it.” “I don’t 
say she will, but supposing she does.” “She won’t do it,” 
he repeated confidently, and with that assurance he left 

In the Cabinet the two groups continued to work to- 
gether for the one object on which both were heartily 
agreed, to prevent a European war; like two men who 
walk side by side on a straight road, but who see ahead 
a parting of the ways and are determined, when they come 
to it, to go one to the right and the other to the left. 
Meanwhile, one side did not press the other to authorize 
a pledge to support France; the other did not press for 
an intimation to France that we should stand aside. In 
that, at any rate, both were wise. Between the two groups 
were no doubt members of the Cabinet, who reserved their 
decision. Their attitude also was to be respected. It was 
not opportunism; it was a tribute paid to the gravity of 
the situation. The Cabinet as a whole knew that it was 
not in a position to pledge the country. Such were the 
conditions in which, inside the Foreign Office, the demand 
from France and Russia to know whether they could 
count on British support in war had to be received and 
could not be answered. 

The interviews with Cambon were distressing to both 
of us, but must have been even more so to him than to 
me. The very existence of his country as a great nation 
was at stake, and it was vital to France to know what 
Britain would do. Later on, when the war had shown 
the forces and the real issues, it was generally understood 
in Britain that our existence was at stake too; but in those 
pre-war days it was the peril of France alone that was 
clear and imminent. Britain had never had an 1870, and 
we still thought we were an island. 


It is unnecessary to repeat what has been written at the 
beginning of this chapter under heading 4. 1 That was 
always present to me; but, besides dread of the mortal 
error of holding out hopes to France and Russia that in 
the hour of need might not be fulfilled, there was the 
sense of responsibility to the Cabinet. At such a time, and 
on such an issue, he who spoke must not go one inch be- 
yond what the Cabinet had authorized. No. 119 in the 
White Paper is an instance of the sort of conversation that 
took place, though a dictated summary of such a conver- 
sation is a bald and cold affair. It goes without saying 
that such answers did not and could not give Cambon 
what he wanted, nor indeed anything that was of any use 
to him. It had often since been a source of regret that 
he alone felt me to be lacking in sympathy. My own 
difficulties and anxiety to keep within the narrow limits 
of what had been agreed to by the Cabinet preoccupied 
me. And, besides that, I was myself a party to that 
Agreement; it was in my judgment all that could be said 
at the time; but there was a sense of the uselessness and 
strangeness of my words of sympathy, when the one thing 
asked for could not be said. 

In these interviews, under all the strain of anxiety Cam- 
bon never once hinted that any obligation or point of 
honour was involved ; never suggested that, in such a crisis 
as this, if we stood upon the letter of the written communi- 
cations exchanged between us in 1912, we should be acting 
contrary to the spirit of them. He besought us to think, 
not of obligation but of our interests; to reflect what our 
position would be if Germany crushed France and domi- 
nated Europe. The only reply at the moment could be 
that this was what some of us were thinking about. 

1 See supra, p. 303. 



Pressing, urgent, insistent as Cambon’s appeals to us were, 
his whole attitude throughout the crisis was a fine example 
of loyalty. We each had a line that we were bound to 
take; he had the opportunity of making his a fine one, 
and he made it so. In mine there was no such oppor- 
tunity; I felt that very distinctly, but there was no other 
line open to me. Meanwhile France and Russia urged, 
with undeniable force, that even if we could promise 
nothing to them, we should not give Germany the im- 
pression, or let her be under the impression, that we 
should certainly stand aside. In every crisis since 1905 
Germany had been told that in my opinion, if war came, 
we should be drawn into it on the side of France. The 
warning was given again to Bethmann-Hollweg through 
Goschen, and to Lichnowsky by me. More than this 
could not be said. Bluff, even if it could be stooped to in 
such grave moments, would be useless : the Germans 
would have known that the border-line between truth and 
bluff was overstepped. Probably things that reached 
Berlin in this summer of 1914, private and secret as well 
as official, will never be published or known. If they are 
it will be very surprising, if it is found that the Foreign 
Office was the only source upon which the German Gov- 
ernment depended for information about British opinion; 
or that Lichnowsky was the only German channel through 
which they derived it. If we knew how strong feeling 
in Great Britain was, it is certain that the Germans knew 
it too. What they did not understand was the difference 
that wanton violation of Belgium would make. 

If the German Government had replied to our question 
with a promise to respect the neutrality of Belgium, pro- 
vided that France also respected it, and if they had asked 
whether on this condition we would remain neutral, there 


would presumably have been discussion on this new fea- 
ture in the Cabinet. The discussion might have been a 
counterpart of that on the point of giving a pledge to help 
France. In this case the group that thought we should 
stand by France would presumably have opposed giving 
any pledge of neutrality to Germany. The Cabinet was, 
in short, up to the time when violation of Belgian neu- 
trality became imminent, unable to give any pledge to 
anybody, and in that it reflected the state of feeling and 
opinion in Parliament and the country. By August 1, 
after Germany had evaded the request to respect Bel- 
gium’s neutrality, this period of indecision, as far as the 
Cabinet was concerned, was coming to an end. How 
decision was attained first in the Cabinet and then in 
Parliament will be told in the next chapter.